Tokyo Olympics: Why swimmers sprinkle themselves with water and rub starting blocks before the race

Swimming secrets revealed: Why Olympians keep splashing themselves with water and ‘rubbing’ the starting blocks before a race

  • The secrets behind Olympic swimmers’ pre-race habits revealed
  • Athletes are said to splash themselves with water to reduce shock when diving in
  • They also do this to lock their suits in place and prevent them from slipping by force
  • Swimmers often hold the starting blocks to improve acceleration in the pool

The secrets behind Olympic swimmers’ seemingly bizarre pre-race habit have been revealed — and some make more sense than you might think.

Team Australia gold medalists such as Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon are usually seen taking water from the pool, slapping their chests and ‘rubbing’ the starting blocks just before a race in Tokyo.

The reason our swimmers perform these pre-race rituals is to ensure that their swimsuits are held in place and to flex their muscles to ensure they enter the pool with the utmost gear possible.

Two-time gold medalist for Team Australia Ariarne Titmus waves to the crowd after winning gold in the women’s 200m freestyle at the Tokyo Aquatic Center on July 28, 2021

Ariarne Titmus splashes herself with water just before her golden dive in the 200m freestyle - a technique that keeps the suits in place and reduces the shock of entering the pool

Ariarne Titmus splashes herself with water just before her golden dive in the 200m freestyle – a technique that keeps the suits in place and reduces the shock of entering the pool

Splashing water and a slap on the chest

According to experts at Swimming World Magazine, swimmers splash pool water on themselves or douse themselves with bottled water to keep their suits from slipping when they dive into the pool and shock their bodies into race-ready condition.

It is believed that the impact of the first dive is less shocking if the body is already wet.

Likewise, swimmers are often seen with a closed fist to the chest in the minutes before a race.

Experts say this is done to stimulate blood flow and loosen the muscles.

The looser the muscles, the better a swimmer will swim.

Kathleen Ledecky (left) of Team USA and Ariarne Titmus (right) of Team Australia dive into the pool after splashing themselves with water to shock their bodies into race-ready condition

Kathleen Ledecky (left) of Team USA and Ariarne Titmus (right) of Team Australia dive into the pool after splashing themselves with water to shock their bodies into race-ready condition

The bizarre habits of Olympic swimmers explained

Splashing water from the pool: Locks swimwear in place and reduces shock to the body when it enters the water.

Strike their chests with a closed fist: Increases blood flow and tones the muscles.

Dark red circles on swimmers bodies: These are the result of cupping, a form of analgesic acupuncture used in traditional Chinese medicine, in which therapists heat small glass cups, then place them on the skin and pull them out of the body to loosen and relax the muscles. relax. The technique is said to stimulate circulation and accelerate the healing of injuries.

Rubbing the starting blocks: Pushing off with hands and feet gives swimmers greater acceleration in the pool.

Ariarne Titmus with her gold medal for Team Australia

Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown will compete in the semifinals of the women's 100m backstroke in Tokyo on 28 July 2021, where she won gold

Gold medalists Ariarne Titmus (left) and Kaylee McKeown (right) of Team Australia

Why do swimmers sometimes have dark red circles on their bodies?

Eagle-eyed viewers of the Tokyo Olympics will have seen striking red circles on the bodies of athletes, including Australian freestyle swimmer Kyle Chalmers and Japanese relay swimmer Akira Namba.

The markings are the result of cupping therapy, a form of pain-relieving acupuncture used in traditional Chinese medicine, in which heated glass cups are placed on the skin and pulled out of the body to loosen and relax the muscles.

The technique, said to boost circulation and accelerate injury healing, was made famous in 2016 by American swimming legend Michael Phelps in Rio and made its comeback at the Olympics five years later.

Australian freestyle swimmer Kyle Chalmers is seen by the pool in Tokyo with striking red circles across his shoulder and back - the result of 'cupping therapy'

Australian freestyle swimmer Kyle Chalmers is seen by the pool in Tokyo with striking red circles across his shoulder and back – the result of ‘cupping therapy’

Ariarne Titmus dives into the water at the Tokyo Aquatic Center on July 28, 2021, after knocking herself off her starting block - a trick used to build up acceleration

Ariarne Titmus dives into the water at the Tokyo Aquatic Center on July 28, 2021, after knocking herself off her starting block – a trick used to build up acceleration

‘Rubbing’ on the starting blocks

As swimmers prepare to dive into the water, we often see them rubbing their hands back and forth along the sides of a raised platform known as a starting block.

The current style of starting block, with a sloping surface and a lip at the back, made its Olympic debut at the London 2012 Games.

First used in international competitions at the 2009 Swimming World Cup, the blocks allow swimmers to push off from a crouched position with their hind leg at a 90-degree angle, maximizing the power of their launch.

According to a physicist from Wired.com, swimmers reach for the front of the starting block so they can use their hands and feet to push off for more acceleration.

The ‘rubbing’ motion is simply the swimmer deciding on where to place his hands before pushing off.

They can also pull on the block, increasing the frictional force between the stand and the swimmer, which also causes acceleration in the water to increase.

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