I sit with a simple grin on my face and recall my heady days of what was then top flight swimming and ponder what my results may have been had I had the opportunity to compete dressed like a shark.
s a former Paralympic swimmer and an ardent swimming fan, I recently watched the FINA World Swimming Championships (held in Rome) with utter amazement.
Yup, I am talking about the new swimsuit brigade and the hornets nest that FINA have now created.
World records are supposed to be special and reserved for the most elite athletes in their various disciplines.
The current crop of swimmers don’t even have time to celebrate their achievements for seemingly, if you break a record in the heats, it will almost certainly be broken in the semi or final if in fact it wasn’t broken in the heat after yours!
The pattern in Rome where a staggering 43 records were smashed was identical to the trend set in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where 25 world records were reduced to tatters. Few, if any of them set not even a year ago stand today! In fact Men’s 1500 meter swimming champion, Grant Hackett, seems to be the only real legend with his world record still in tact after just over 8 years!
In my mind, the controversial suits offer modern swimmers unlimited streamlining through less water resistance and increased buoyancy; probably the equivalent of sanctioning the tainted cyclists of say the Tour de France and permitting the use of all the steroids that they can lay their hands on. Perhaps add a little motion motor onto the chain assembly for goods measure.
Aside from the obvious unfair advantages that suits, mechanical aides and drugs offer, the costs are prohibitive meaning that once again money prevails and only the rich will really prevail. Its not just about the athletes themselves, its about the poorer nations where often talent lurks in abundance but naturally, other priorities prevail. I am not suggesting here that a modern swim suit would have done much for the likes of “Eric the eel” but you know what I mean! If the current craze is not curtailed, swimming is on a farcical road to nowhere.
I sit with a simple grin on my face and recall my heady days of what was then top flight swimming in the sixties seventies and early eighties and have to ponder what my results may have been had I had the opportunity to compete dressed like a shark.
I was a reasonable swimmer with my own opinions on training methods, diets etc and even remember wearing “Bermuda” style baggies for if I plunged into the water at the last second before the race, the nylon linings would inflate thus giving me more buoyancy so that my legs would float at least to the halfway mark!
In later years, I would arrive at poolside in my woollen knitted tracksuit, strip down to my trendy “flesh coloured” Speedo, plunge into the water wishing that I had cut my hair (in that I once read about the drag that it would create), false starting to upset everyone and then going just as fast as I could on limited breath to see how fast I could reach the other side! Fact is, that’s what we all did!
Admittedly we had trained as best we could and were mentally prepared for competition where it was to be an even playing field in terms of technology at least.
I also wonder with this hardly well proportioned body that I was handed, just how they would have tried to fit the skin tight leotard!
In those days, I was a singer for a rock band (EEZEE) in Zimbabwe and fondly referred to as being “just a swimmer in a rock n roll band” which was a slight deviation on the song title of “Just a singer in a rock n roll band” by the great Moody blues!
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for achievement and advancement in sport of all codes.
I also understand the entertainment value and the fact that professionalism is alive and more accepted in some places then others.
Its just that whatever we do, everyone who participates should be able to compete in their chosen arena with equal opportunity and at the moment, FINA are wrestling with a self imposed handicap system that cannot be managed. Time to go back to basics!
The dilemma that FINA now have is if they ban the vastly advanced suits, how do they peg the records? Will there be records for those in suits and those without? Me thinks they should all swim in suits, “birthday suits” of course. Boy, you sure would pack the arenas and who would give a hoot about records anyway? Sure, buoyancy and drag might be factors...............!