Pool Design and Race Performance

Pool Design and Race Performance

Could the design of the pool in Rio be fueling Olympic swimming records?


Nine world or Olympic records have already fallen in Rio, but credit could belong to the architects’ design and technology of the pool and venue.

From Sports Illustrated

When one typically thinks about swimming pool design, one conjures up images of fire bowls, infinity edges, and water features.  In a commercial or competition swimming pool design arena, swimming pool design revolves around less aesthetic features and more performance enhancing features.  This post from Sports Illustrated discusses these performance enhancements like pool depth and competition gutters and how they affect the “fastness” of a competition pool.

Here is an excerpt from the post:

RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio’s Olympic pool is certainly not slow. Nine world or Olympic records have already fallen, and fallen again, in Brazil, and the swimming competition at the Games is still only halfway done. But is it fast? Does the credit for those record-breaking performances lie with the Olympic athletes’ dedication, or the Olympic architects’ design?

Beijing’s Olympic pool was acclaimed for its speed eight years ago. “It’s by far the fastest pool in the world,” said Rowdy Gaines to NPR in August 2008. Gaines won three gold medals for Team USA in the pool at Los Angeles 1984, and now works as NBC’s swimming analyst. A total of 29 records were set in China. Four years later, at London 2012, just 19 new marks were set. Rio is currently on course to tie London, but with only 16 events left, cannot catch Beijing.

In London, 11 of the winning times were slower than in Beijing. Of the 16 gold medal times registered so far in Brazil, five are still slower than those from eight years back, despite any advances in sports science and coaching techniques that may have come since then. (The biggest improvements have come on the women’s side of the competition, where all of the times in Brazil have so far beaten those in China.)

“A fast pool typically has at least three meters of depth to it,” says Teri McKeever, head coach of the University of California’s women’s swimming team, and who served as the U.S. head coach at London 2012. “The deeper the pool is the better, because the splash or the turbulence and everything takes longer to get down to the bottom and then it doesn’t ricochet back up into the swimmers.”

Click here to read the entire post