The horn goes off. With everything that they’ve got, the swimmers complete one lap and then another. They touch the wall and look up. The winner’s name flashes on the screen but then, all they hear is silence.
This is the lonely challenge faced by ISKL swimmers.
At ISKL, rugby, basketball, and football – they all enjoy great spectator support. Swimming, on the other hand, does not. This is perplexing to me because all these sports require strength, endurance, and power. They all take years and decades of dedication to perfect. They all are extremely entertaining to watch. But, at ISKL, we hardly hear people get excited about a swim meet, let alone go to one.
Instead, many simply dismiss it, for reasons that are based on popular myths rather than facts.
The first myth is that swimming is easy and not that physically demanding. Anyone who has ever tried swimming competitively will quickly find out that it is no walk in the park. As IASIS swimmer, Vasily Malashich, once said to me after practice, “This literally feels like death!” Even the great Michael Phelps, realized how demanding swimming was and told his mom: “Even in high school, I’d tell my mom I was sick of swimming and wanted to try to play golf.”
In fact, swimming is one of the hardest sports to excel in. This is because of the way that we train. Unlike in other sports, the training in swimming is structured differently, making it very intense and physically demanding. ISKL coach, George Carpouzis, a former Olympic swimmer himself, has us swimmers do long, fast-paced and high-intensity sets with breaks of only 15 seconds, with no water breaks.
Renowned sports scientist, Professor David B Pyne, PhD, University of Canberra, in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism supports this fact when he spoke of “the daily rigorous training and preparation” of swimmers that “consume several hours and involve frequent periods of high-intensity exertions” and the unique “energetics of human locomotion in water.”
So, since swimming requires all the same athletic abilities and demands as popular sports such as rugby, basketball, and football – if not more – for this reason alone, swimming should be given the same amount of support and consideration as those other more popular sports in school.
The second myth is that swimming is not as exciting or entertaining as rugby, basketball, and football. Those that think this, clearly have not been to an inter-school swim meet, like IASIS, before. The amount of yelling and screaming that takes place is insane, bordering on hysteria.
Among swimming participants that I personally surveyed, 100% of respondents said that swim meets were loud, exciting, and entertaining. For example, IASIS swimmer Eva Jonge-Poerink said to me, “If you don’t find swimming fun to watch, then you’re probably in a coma!”
This high entertainment value is certainly reflected in the Olympics, where American TV network NBC television ratings reached a new record high during the Rio Olympics in 2016 when professional swimmer Michael Phelps swam his final event, the 4x100m medley relay.
While the numbers for their primetime coverage was at 25.5 million viewers, their viewership spiked and peaked at 32.7 million viewers whenever Phelps was in the pool. During that event, not only was the crowd going wild, even the commentators could not contain their enthusiasm.
Looking at this, just the fact that swimming was the most watched sport in the US during the Olympics, certainly brings into question the logic of those who challenge its entertainment value let alone the sheer strength, endurance, and power required to excel in it.
Finally, the question I have is: If the whole world can love swimming, then why can’t we at school, ISKL?
Guest. “Guest .” The Life of a Professional Swimmer, hawaiianpoolsmemphis.com/professional-swimmer-dedication/.
Littleton, Cynthia. “TV Ratings: Olympics Viewership Soars for Michael Phelps’ Final Event.” Variety, 20 Aug. 2016, variety.com/2016/tv/news/tv-ratings-olympics-michael-phelps-final-event-1201837152/.
“What Muscles Does Swimming Exercise?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, www.livestrong.com/article/145931-what-muscles-does-swimming-exercise/.
“Michael Phelps Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/michael_phelps_425420.
Pyne, David & Sharp, Rick “Physical and Energy Requirements of Competitive Swimming Events” ResearchGate, July 2014, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263971228_Physical_and_Energy_Requirements_of_Competitive_Swimming_Events