Researchers Think That A Current In The Olympic Pool Gave Some Swimmers A Competitive Advantage

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Did swimming in certain lanes during the Olympic competition in Rio help some swimmers have had an unfair advantage? Researchers have put together some compelling evidence that this might, in fact, have been the case.

According to a couple of new reports there seems to have been a current in the pool that may have affected the results of the races, mostly the shorter events.

In 2014, three scientists published a study showing that the results of the 50m races at the 2013 World Championships were similarly affected by a current in the pool.

In their study they showed that swimmers competing on one side of the pool repeatedly did better than those on the other side of the pool.

Fast forward to 2016 and this morning Barry Revzin of Swim Swam published a report that showed that swimmers in lanes 5 through 8 at this year’s Olympics consistently performed better.

…there was a clear drift from lane 1 to lane 8 – which suggests that swimmers were pushed towards the start end in the upper lanes and pushed towards the turn end in the lower lanes, with the effect greater the further you get from the center. This is very concerning.

It is concerning when you consider that in short races hundredths of a second can mean the difference between getting on the medal podium and not.

He goes on…

These results are very disconcerting to me, but do not in and of themselves prove that there is a problem. However, the data strongly point to serious problem in the pool which could have led to an unfair competitive environment, especially in the 50m freestyles. I think it should be investigated.

Turns out that this WAS investigated and by the same researchers who did the aforementioned study in 2014.

The Wall Street Journal published a report on Wednesday by Joe Stager, director of Indiana University’s Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming, in which it is stated…

As evidence, they note that of the eight men and eight women who swam fast enough during the 50-meter semifinals to qualify for the final, all but one swam in lanes 4 through 8. Moreover, athletes who swam in lanes 5 through 8 during preliminaries or semifinals and moved to lanes 1 through 4 for later heats got slower. They posted times about a half percent slower in the subsequent round—even though pace tends to quicken as events progress.

Of the three male and three female medalists in the 50 freestyle finals, five swam in lanes 4 through 8. The exception was American Anthony Ervin, who won the 50-free gold medal swimming in lane 3. Pernille Blume of Denmark won the women’s 50 free in lane 4.

Officials in Rio say that they tested for currents and found no issues.

“If we saw there was a current, we’d have done something about it. There was no indication whatsoever,” said Trevor Tiffany, chairman of the board for Myrtha Pools USA, who witnessed the tests.

Stager, obviously, based on his research disagrees, “It’s a big deal. This is horrific.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about it now, so just chalk it up to yet another controversy in the never-ending list for the Rio Summer Olympics.

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H/T Deadspin