Like all sportsmen and women, swimmers have their own good luck rituals, superstitions and habits that they keep on repeating like a mantra before their races.
So what are a swimmer’s worst nightmares?
Forget about fear of the dark, the bogeyman, insects or confined spaces, what I’m about to talk about are the real nightmares that keep swimmers awake at night!
1. FALSE STARTS! You are ready, you have trained hard and prepared everything right down to the most minute detail. You have practiced your start over and over again, hundreds of times, and you have never made a “false start” in training.
On that day you stand in front of your starting block, then you climb onto the block when you hear the long whistle as if you wanted to smash it to bits, but…. just after the command to “take your mark”, something goes wrong, why is the starter taking so long to start the race?!
Then something goes haywire, your legs are ready to explode off the blocks, you move and you are now off-balance and….. you make a false start! NOOOOO!!
You fall into the water as clumsily as a beginner. And as you climb out of the water the race official is already ordering the other swimmers to step off their blocks. How embarrassing!
Don’t worry, though! There have been plenty of great champions in the history of swimming, who have momentarily fatally lost control on the starting block and committed the dreaded false start.
2. WHEN YOUR EQUIPMENT LETS YOU DOWN. At the World Swimming Championships in Rome back in 2009, the year of those famous polyurethane swimsuits, it became almost a familiar sight to see TV footage of swimmers (in the changing rooms or even on the starting blocks) struggling to get into their swimsuits that ripped apart almost as soon as they breathed out.
Fortunately modern-day high-tech swimsuits are a lot less troublesome, but… try and imagine your swimsuit ripping apart just before a race or even on the starting block. What would you do?! It would be panic stations!
Not to mention your swim cap ripping as you put it on just before climbing onto the starting block. That uncontrollable terror as you look around for help from your teammates and that feeling of dismay at having lost the race before it even starts.
And what about your swimming goggles? How many times have you tightened the strap behind your head to make sure they do not come off when you dive in? How tightly have you fastened those goggles, almost tight enough to make your eyes pop out of their sockets?! But even going to all that trouble might not do any good. Your goggles might still come off after diving in, filling up with water and leaving you “blind” for the entire race.
Then what can you do? Just trust your technique and hope they have not shortened the length of the pool!
3. UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS IN THE WATER. Swimmers are a rather strange kind of aquatic being. They would always love to swim in clear water at just the right temperature, possibly even sterilised. Unfortunately that is not the way things are. Hundreds of people use swimming pools every day and cleanliness is not always a must.
If we stopped to think about what might be in the water at any given moment, we would have less swimmers in the water and more people watching from the poolside. In any case, whenever something hits you or you can feel something between your fingers or in your hands, you freak out immediately.
Often it is a clump of hair or even mucous and, if you happen to be swimming in open water, they might be leaves or even dead insects. That is when you realise that swimming pools are not such clean and hygienic places, in actual fact they are places where survival is your main concern!
Of course this is just a story about our fears, the fears all swimmers have, perhaps just to exorcise them or simply because we swimmers are strange beasts!