In the vocabulary of real-everyday-normal-people lingo, a ‘facepalm’ refers to those moments in life where the only plausible reaction you have is to bring the palm of your hand to your forehead in exasperation. It’s that ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just did that!’ moment of embarrassment, or the ‘Can you believe he just said that’ instance of agitation, and as swimmers, we have our fair share of them.
One that is particularly annoying is slipping off of the wall on a flip turn. It’s that moment when you’re preparing for the rotation, an action so familiar it could be done in your sleep (and often is… 6 AM practices, anyone?), but suddenly your feet slip on the end of the turn. You lose all of the power and force needed to properly push off of the wall, and are left wondering ‘How the heck did that just happen?!’. Flip turns are second nature to any experienced swimmer, a skill that is practiced so often we don’t even have to really think about the mechanics of it. So when we do have a slip up (literally!), it can be a bit of a bruise to our egos, and a cause for exasperation.
Another nuisance that is at least a bit easier to justify is miscounting mileage. In practice, it is especially easy to let your mind wander away from the task at hand, particularly during the less-than-thrilling distance sets that are so infamously tedious. I can’t even begin to quantify the number of times I’ve been swimming and suddenly wondered ‘Wait… was that 550? Or 600?’. A black line is not the most stimulating thing to look at, and counting distances upwards of several hundred yards is enough to mix even the best of us up sometimes. And while most of the time it works out alright since normally at least someone is aware of which lap you’re on, sometimes everyone is just having ‘one of those days’, and as a group, you collectively end up doing either too much or too little. And cue the facepalm!
Perhaps the ultimate moment of annoyance that swimmers can universally agree on, though, is missing a desired time, a specific standard, or a podium finish by a fraction of a second. I can practically hear the *smack!* as all of the sprinters reading this bring their hand to their forehead, exasperated by the mere memory of a time they fell short by 0.01 seconds. In a sport where every millisecond counts, missing a goal by such a close margin is gut-wrenching, and leaves you second-guessing every move you made in the race. ‘Maybe if I hadn’t trimmed my nails last night I would have had that extra half an inch!’. Or, ’If only I had stretched my arm just a liiiiiiittle bit further!’. It’s like that old saying goes; ‘So close it hurts’. And trust me, it really, really hurts.
So whether it’s a technical mix-up, a slip of the mind, or a time that we fall short of, swimmers everywhere have definitely all experienced at least a few facepalm worthy moments. Thankfully, though, we also get to experience the jump-for-joy, fist pumping the air, smiling so big it hurts kind of moments. And those are the ones that make it all worthwhile.