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Swimming comes to grips with technology, sorta

by Carl Brewer last modified 2009-07-29 18:15
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Interesting to see how another sport copes with the influence of technology

It's been hard to miss this week, swimming's world record smashfest at the world championships in Rome.  Previous "nobodies" (sic) beating world marks set by famous swimmers.  Why? Swimming suits that reduce drag and increase buoyancy.

They (swimming) started down the slippery slope years ago, but it's finally become obvious that their records are now a farce.

Cycling addressed this issue quite a while ago to howls of derision by some, who still whine about it now.    There's really only one major record in cycling, and that's the Hour.  One hour, fixed gear, velodrome.  If you watched Graham Obree's semi-biographical film or read his book 'The Flying Scotsman' etc you'd remember.  How did Graham break the record? With a special narrow bike, less drag ... How did Chris Boardman break it again? With a bike designed 'On a Computer'.  Eventually the UCI said enough, and now the Hour must be set on a standard bike with standard bits and pieces and there's a separate section of the records that covers the fancy bikes used to set the hour record.  If you want to break the record now you have to do it at sea level on a standard bicycle.  So the Hour is a record that means something.  If you break it, you're actually faster than Merckx was and that's how it should be.

All the other cycling disciplines aren't really based on times, they're all relative (save for some track time trials), so as long as everyone has roughly equal budgets they're on a level-ish playing field.  Our sport coped with the issues swimming has blindly plunged into (who seriously didn't see this coming?!), it'll be interesting to see how swimming copes.  It's a pretty boring sport to watch, the only thrill is the breaking of a world record or seeing someone you're connected to do well, so how they cope with the records issue will be intriguing.


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