Life on the road with Swimming
A day in the life at the FINA World Champs by Ivan Hooper, Australian Swimming Therapy Team Member and QAS Lead Swimming Physiotherapist.
The swimming program at the FINA World Championships this year was an 8-day program, so it was a bit of a marathon to get through. And sometimes even a bit like ground hog day.
Morning heats would start at 9am, so the Therapy Team had to be up and at breakfast by 6:30am. The pool is 2km from our hotel so we walked along the Danube to be there by 7:30am.
We had two team areas at the pool, one of which was next to the warm up pool. This was where athletes did their final prep for racing, got into their suits and got physio and massage. It was crowded and noisy, but had a sense of energy and purpose. One of the most impressive things about this Australian Swim Team is that all members - athletes, coaches and staff - got on with the job with little fuss and it always felt very calm.
We also had another area upstairs from the warm up pool. This area was quieter and had more space. We also had a physio and massage therapist stationed in this area so some athletes choose upstairs and some downstairs as their base.
The athletes have well-rehearsed routines for getting themselves ready for racing. Occasionally the Therapy Team will help if an athlete feels a bit stiff or if something is sore in that last period before racing but we are much busier after racing. The athletes will go through their routines of swim down and ice bath, and then the ones racing again that night or next day will usually get a post-race massage. Routine massage or physio will usually happen on an athlete’s non race day. We were lucky on this tour that we didn’t really have any significant injury issues – aside from Shayna Jack’s freak accident.
COVID entered the team mid-way through the competition, with one athlete and one of our managers testing positive. So, we were back to being masked at the pool and around the hotel. Unfortunately, Lani Pallister missed her 800m freestyle final because of it.
There are some great little routines in the team. One of them is that athletes that make semis and finals at night will be issued with stick on name tags. Upon return to the team area the athlete sticks them onto the wall. As the week goes on the wall of name stickers grows and it helps develop a real sense of team.
Morning heats are usually done by about 11am, and by the time the warm downs and post-race therapy sessions are done we usually get out by 12pm and will walk back to the hotel and have lunch. Some people will have a rest, some will exercise, some might go out to the laundromat or to have coffee. It is important to have a bit of down time before the evening finals.
The evening routine begins with a walk back to the pool at 4:00pm with racing starting at 6:00pm. It is really important that all of us stay very calm and consistent in how we interact with the athletes. Sometimes they will have had a great swim, sometimes a not so great one. We need to be the consistent base that they return to and all athletes should feel equally supported regardless of their result. At the end of that day, they have all put in their best effort and we still get to enjoy the great performances whether they medal or not.
Racing usually finishes by 8:00pm and we would leave the pool somewhere around 9:00pm. Sometimes it will be later if we have relays on in the night session. We got to walk back along the Danube which was a great chance to “chew the fat” and debrief. Then it was dinner at 10:00pm. Bed. Repeat the next day.
Last updated: 07 Jul 2022