Olympic Pool may Have a Design Flaw Giving Higher Lanes an Advantage

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Three scientists from Indiana University’s Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming have raised questions about the validity of the Rio Olympic swimming results. The team says that a current present in the pool seems to favor those swimming in lanes 4-8 during the prestigious 50m freestyle event.

Three scientists from Indiana University’s Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming have raised questions about the validity of the Rio Olympic swimming results. The team says that a current present in the pool seems to favor those swimming in lanes 4-8 during the prestigious 50m freestyle event.

The team led by Councilman Center director Joel Stager based this analysis on the results from all the races in the Rio pool, not an examination of the pool itself. What they found was competitors in lanes 4-8 appear to get a 0.2% advantage for each late closer number 8 they are in. Interestingly, swimmers who were in a “fast” lane for a qualifying round, then moved to a “slow” one consistently slowed down. This is the opposite of what you’d expect as the average pace tends to quicken toward the end of big events like this.

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This same team made similar claims following the 2013 world swimming championships in Barcelona. They saw the same pattern there — higher numbered lanes had a distinct advantage over lower ones. We’re talking about a slight advantage, but that’s why the 50m freestyle is the most obviously affected. It’s a single pool-length race, and the difference between winning a gold and going home empty handed can be as little as a tenth of a second.

In a longer race, there are more factors that can blunt the impact of an almost imperceptible current in the pool. Of the six total medal winners in the 50m freestyle (three men and three women), all but one of them swam in lanes 4-8 during the final.

Officials at FINA, swimming’s world governing body, are investigating the claims made by the UI researchers. However, even if a previously undetected current is found in the pool, it’s not likely anyone will be rerunning the race. If anything, it could lead to a change in pool design to prevent this phenomenon in future events.

Source: geek.com

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