Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of ‘innovations’ meant to speed up swim meets. I’ll mention a few of them before getting to the latest: public announcements of DQs.
For those old enough, you may remember back when swimming had a 3-false-start rule. And in championship meets, it was rare to have a sprint race start without a false start. Can you imagine in today’s ultra-crowded meets what would happen if that rule was still in effect? Sessions could run 6-8 hours!
Multiple Heats in the Water
Another efficiency that has become very popular is multiple heats in the water at the same time. Specifically, the double-ended LC meet, with one heat starting from the other end when the previous heat is on their last length. This generally works very well, cutting up to 30 seconds off the time required for each heat. And it also provides the potential for moments of intense excitement. Every once in a while, the officials (who have clearly never done a 200 fly or 200 breast) start the trailing heat too soon. The combination of a tiring lead swimmer and a fresh trailing swimmer can bring the whole building to their feet. It’s an unwritten rule among swimmers that if you have a chance to catch that swimmer, you throw race strategy out the window and start SPRINTING!
Of course, this raises all kinds of problems if that catch actually happens. Interference between them becomes unavoidable, but I rarely hear of either swimmer being DQ’d. The most interesting catch I’ve seen was a 200 fly, where the trailing swimmer went UNDER the lead swimmer, and still had enough room to surface, turn, and then go back under the swimmer again. Clearly it should have been a DQ, but nothing was called.
This is a variation of multiple heats in the water, but the differences here involve massive savings of time, and very real chances of injury. I once had a swimmer experience an eye injury, thankfully temporary, when the other swimmer didn’t stay on her half of the lane and they collided. I understand the time savings is significant, but this real risk of injury should take precedence.
I recently asked a Level 5 official about validity of times for two-to-a-lane swimming. I was told 1) those times cannot count for records of any kind, and 2) those time can count for qualifying times for bigger meets. Which raises a huge issue of willing or unwilling collaboration. Although the two heats don’t start together, it is quite possible for one swimmer to draft off the other, as long as both stay on their sides of the lane.
Swimming has gradually reduced the amount of time between heats. It used to start with waiting until everyone finished, and then everyone got out of the pool before the next heat got on the blocks. The big innovation here was leaving the swimmers in the water until the next heat started, and then getting out. This ‘Over-the-Top’ starting system used to be fairly relaxed, but over time I’ve heard the goal time for ‘last touch to start’ dropping from each over 15 seconds, down to as little as 7 seconds. I have no problem with this as it has virtually no impact on the swimmers.
However, the rushed inter-heat timing mentality was created, and this has definitely caused problems. Expecially for backstroke races. Because the previous backstroke heat needs to exit the water first, officials can get pretty cranky when it doesn’t happen quickly. It’s not uncommon for officials to start urging/yelling at swimmers to get out right away. For young ones or paraswimmers, this sometimes just doesn’t happen quickly enough for the officials. I’ve seen an official blowing a whistle at a paraswimmer with CP for not getting out of the pool quickly enough.
It really left me wondering as to whether some officials have forgotten why we have swim meets.
And now we get to ….
Public Announcement of DQs
You may have already figured this out, but I hate this new innovation. Instead of getting a DQ report delivered to the coach, a generic DQ announcement is made over the PA system. Generally the announcements are something like, “DQ in Event 73, Heat 6, Lane 3. Turn infraction”. Which is not overly informative. And that only what you’d hear if the PA announcement on a pool deck with 700+ swimmers and a double-ended meet was clear. And it’s never clear.
As a result, we virtually never know about DQs until we check online, or check official posted results. And if you’re busy, you may not find out until the end of the session. Even if you do hear the announcement, then you’ve got to find the official responsible for explaining the DQs and then get hold of the DQ slip. If you have a lot of kids at the meet, it probably means you just missed some races.
The reality is that you almost never question a DQ, and often never even find out exactly what caused the DQ. I believe this is intended, as it results in less work required by officials, and fewer disputed DQs.
I completely understand the need in swimmer-dense areas for more efficient swim meets. And innovations such as 1-False Start, Double-Ended meets and Over-the-Top are truly efficient and generally don’t negatively impact on the meet experience.
However, Two-to-a-Lane is downright dangerous, and potentially exploitable. It only continues because of the significant time savings, and the additional money the host team can make on more distance entries.
PA of DQs also has to go. It’s strictly a time saving measure for officials, and negative impacts on the coach’s ability to help swimmer learn from DQs.