Is competitive swimming a physical contact sport? Most people wouldn’t even hesitate to say no. You swim individually, and don’t generally have to come into contact with other people, right? Wrong.
It’s pretty common knowledge amongst swimmers that our bodies take a beating. Between the pacing sets, sprints, weight sessions and countless laps of pull and kick, we are pushed beyond our limits on a regular basis at practice.
Aside from the everyday sore arms and aching legs that we have to deal with, though, is the fact that it sometimes feels as though even the pool itself is plotting against us. The flags enjoy blowing in the wind, causing you to misjudge your strokes and crash head-first into the wall. The lane ropes take pleasure in giving you scratches and bruises when you get too close. Perhaps the most cruel, however, is when you’re swimming long course and the wall seems to be taunting you by appearing to be an endless amount of metres away.
And then, of course, we have to factor in the people that we share the pool with. Realistically, the word ‘share’ is being generous, because in a crowded warm up pool it really is every swimmer for themselves. It’s not pretty. In fact, it can be pure mayhem, and you have to learn how to be aggressive. There are breast-strokers sharing lanes with freestylers, and kickers swimming alongside pullers. You get kicked, scratched and hit in the head, sometimes all in one lap. Some of my team mates have suffered spanned fingers, injured shoulders, and one girl even had to wear a neck brace for two weeks after she was kicked in the spine.
So between the constant physical demands of the sport, and the bumps and bruises given to us from the pool itself, as well as the other swimmers in it, I’ll ask again- is competitive swimming a contact sport?