|outdoor 50 meter pool with a 25 meter diving well in Finland|
This is a guest post by Matthew White (@serious_square) a swimmer and water polo player based in the UK.
During my time with the Great Britain Junior Water Polo Team one of the many places I had the privilege of playing was Barcelona. When I was there in 2001 there was a rumour that there were more 50 meter swimming pools in Barcelona than the whole of the UK, a statistic that we all knew could easily be true but were never able to verify.
What may have been the actual fact was that there are more 'Olympic size pools' in Barcelona than in the whole of UK. This is because in 2001 there appears to have only been one, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre. This was the only pool to meet the 50 meters by 25 meter (10 lanes) standard. In 2011, there are now 3 more official Olympic sized pools in the UK: London Aquatics Centre (the venue for the 2012 summer Olympics), Sunderland Aquatic Centre and the John Charles Centre for Sport, in Leeds.
Since 2001 there have been a number of swimming pools built that are 50 meters in length, notably Manchester Aquatics Centre, Cardiff International Sports Centre and the K2 near Gatwick airport to name just a few, we seem to be getting the idea that for our swimmer athletes to compete at the very top level they need to be training and racing in full length swimming pools. Just as it would be ridiculous for a 100 meter runner to sprint 50 meters, turn and run back, the dynamics of training in a 25 meter pool are completely different to that of a 50 meter pool.
In Australia, a country with a population a third the size of the UK they have built 47 Olympic Sized swimming pools and they consistently produce swimming and water polo teams that compete regularly with the very best in the world. Does their success boil down to having more quality swimming facilities? I would argue that it is an important factor, however, probably not the only factor.
Swimming is amongst one of Britain's most participated sports, so the pool of potential athletes probably matches or exceeds that of Australia, therefore, nurturing top athletes with the very best swimming facilities is very important. Looking at UK swim teams performance in the pool since the Sydney Olympics in 2000 the theory of an increased number of 50 meter pools aiding top level performance could gain a more weighted argument.
The table shows an increase in medals between 2000 and 2008, plus in 2008 British swimmers made more finals than any other Olympics before. Looking at this purely quantitatively, more pools = more medals – but it is not as simple as that. What will happen in the 2012 Olympic Games in London is still to be decided and your guess is good as mine. Will the team GB break records and bring home more medals than before?
One might argue other factors contribute to a country like Australia's success, firstly, the climate is far warmer and from my own experience potentially Olympic standard athletes get fed up with getting up on a cold dark mornings and training for two-hours before school – therefore just quit or 'burnt out' as it is called. I don't know what the 'burn out' rate for Australian athletes is, but personally I find it far easier to getting up to a bright warm morning as opposed to a cold dark one. So one could argue, to be an Olympic swimmer in UK is much more psychologically challenging than in warmer and sunnier countries like Australia.
|Olympic size pool with 10 lanes in Cyprus|
There are always going to be more factors than 'the quality of swimming facilities' and accessibility. But looking at the number of recent pools built in the UK, someone must be realising their importance, both for elite athletes and for the general public. For me, the increase in 50 meter pools has directly influenced UK swim team's national performance and I would be interested to hear from readers about their own country.
The future seems quite bright for swimming in Britain, and no doubt the 2012 Olympics effect will go further in increasing funding and participation for the next swimming generation. At an age still young enough to compete, but getting nearer to coaching 'age' I personally am quite excited about the potential new facilities and interest in aquatic sports has received and where they can take us in the future.
More about Matthew: He writes swimming and pool related articles for Aspect Pools who sell everything to do with aquatics from swimming pool chemicals to garden swimming pools.
From Swimator Blog: If you have the option to train in 50 meter pool, you should definitely jump on the opportunity. Practicing in 50 meter pool has many benefits Here are just a few. It is much harder to swim as one cannot rest on the wall every 25 meters, so you will get stronger over time and coming back to the 25 meter pool for training will feel like a walk in the park. You also have more time to practice the miscellaneous swimming drills since you do not have to loose focus with too many wall turns. Also, usually, there is more space in the 50 meter pools, so you have less swimming traffic in the lane. If your main swimming goal is to improve in open water swimming or triathlons, 50 meter pools should take up majority of your indoor training. However, that said, it is not a good practice to only train in 50 meter pool as it is quite easy to loose speed and loose the grip on your turns. So make sure you strike a good balance between your training locations. Happy swimming!