Most of us think that pools are just for summer fun. But for an Olympic swimmer, pools can affect their entire career.
Pools are giant designs and engineering plans brought to life. There are two main types: slow and fast. A slow pool is the pool we would go to during the summer to relax, cool off, and have a good time. However, athletes, especially Olympic- caliber swimmers, prefer fast pools. Nick Arakelian, captain of the men’s swimming team at Queens University of Charlotte and a member of SwimMAC Elite, says a fast pool features unique characteristics that fit the needs of competitive swimmers.
Most swimming events take place during the first week of the games. Pool characteristics are important for many Charlotte-based swimmers.
“Depth is important,” Arakelian says. “Usually the deeper the better—around 9-10 feet. If it’s too shallow, you’ll worry about hitting the bottom during underwater turns.” Drainage systems are also important. These are supported by overflow gutters, which make sure “the water is constantly flowing out of the pool so you don’t have pushback from waves up against the wall.” This helps ensure that the swimmer cuts through the water smoothly. Temperature is also important, as is the right amount of chlorine to keep the pool sanitary and the swimmers comfortable. USA Swimming recommends a pool temperature of 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit for competitive events.
Features like these are included in the pool at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Arakelian’s SwimMAC teammates tell him it is a fast pool, and includes extra features for Olympic athletes. “One thing we can expect to see is backstroke wedges,” Arakelian says. “They’re retractable platforms that backstrokers can brace their feet on for a more consistent push, and they don’t let you slip down the wall.” Designs like these help swimmers feel more confident.
“The physical features of the pool can put the swimmers more mentally at ease,” Arakelian says. Fast pools enable swimmers to focus on their technique rather than their setting.
Perforated bulkheads and overflow gutters help water constantly flow out of the pool, preventing pushback from waves against the wall. This makes pool faster for swimmers.