Facilitating a world record

To my total surprise, on Saturday, Eleanor Simmonds, achieved a new world record in the 400 m freestyle in the lane I served as time-keeper, it was lane 7 of the London Aquatics Centre.

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Superb swim by Ellie Simmonds in the 400FR breaking her own Paraswimming Short-Course World Record (set in 2013) with a time of 5:26.76 – superb effort in Ellie’s return to . Congratutations!!!

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That is what make being an official worthwhile, it is the knowledge that we can facilitate and assist greatness in the pool.

 

The Cambridge Common

Whilst Madison had to miss out on the Cambridge Grand Prix, I made a parental contribution to the racing action going on in Cambridge over the weekend by acting as official.

Swimming competitions, which are licensed at a certain level, need a set number of qualified officials to meet the criteria.

The level of a nationalmeet is level 1 and Cambridge Grand Prix was licensed as level 2.

cambridge cows
Cows in Cambridge living in a public park

I stayed the night in a local bed and breakfast and whilst I walked from my hotel to the pool in the morning, walked through a park and could not believe my eyes seeing a herd of cows grazing on the Common.

It is almost unthinkable for a Londoner that cows should live so freely in a public park, that is used by joggers, cyclist and walkers as a through route in the city. Apparently the animals are docile and keep the grass short, no clue who picks up their cow pads, as I didn’t see any, apart from the residue on the cow I pictured.

An ingenious system of fencing, which doesn’t look particularly high or dense, keeps the cows within the common.

cambridge pool
Parkside Pools, Gonville Place, Cambridge, CB1 1LY

When I arrived at the pool on the second day of my stay, I looked forward to helping swimmers reach their dream of making qualifying times for the National Short Course championships.

The pool is nice and airy, fully surrounded by windows, it is light and appears spacey. The air quality in the pool area is also pretty good, so that working around the pool for a couple of days doesn’t make one feel too tired.

Cambridge Grand Prix

With Madison’s competition career on hold, we had to take her out of this competition. Everybody says, hurting shoulders need to rest Waiting for Godot, on a hospital appointment, will test our patience, in the truest sense of the word. Ahem patients.

Swimming is a sport for swimmers and swimmers usually are children and it is the children’s parents that keep the sport going, organise the meets, officiate at meets and keep the clubs running. All parents can train as

  • Time keepers
  • J1 or J2 judges
  • J2S starters
  • Referees

It is the biggest volunteering effort and the Big Society of Sport that parents do the work and the swimmers do the swimming. Yet the sport volunteering existed long before the term Big Society was invented very recently.

Even though Madison is not competing, I, as parent, can go and help  with the meet. Cambridge, the City of Cambridge Swimming Club have been marvellous in engaging people to help. Even the most placid of parents, suddenly jump up and want to help in this great occasion.

As it says Cambridge Grand Prix, an event easily associated with the City of Cambridge. Obviously another club that is run in conjunction with the City it is located in.

City_of_London_skyline_from_London_City_Hall_-_Sept_2015_-_Crop_Aligned
By © User:Colin and Kim Hansen / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48935921

Yes, we do have London Swimming events, but not as in a club run by the City of London, no, it is a loose conglomerate of independent swimming clubs strewn around the big town. London Swimming is more of a geographical marker and overhead organisation such as Swim England, London branch.

Look at the difference, the rural City of Cambridge at the top and the City of London just above, yet only the rural town can manage to support a Swimming club. London Swimming has no City of London sponsor message on their website.

I think if the City of London would throw their weight behind a swimming club and actively sponsor it, like obviously other towns or cities do, then perhaps the London Aquatic Centre could host a successful London club.

But as it is, the London Aquatic Centre, is again, organised to cater for host-boroughs that are geographically located around the venue. Nothing that says, yes it is our city, our pool, our swimming club, City of London Swimming Club.

The case for scrutiny

Just overheard the commentators on the Euro channel Sports live stream for the European Champs in Glasgow and they questioned if the judges actually enforce the 15m rule.

They did not mention the strokes but said they talked to an official and that an official wanted to disqualify a swimmer for going under water beyond the 15m mark and that the official was overruled by most likely a referee and the request for a disqualification was rejected, what the commentators found horrifying because being under water beyond 15 is an advantage.

Well, strictly speaking officials should never discuss such matter with anybody and should always refer any enquiry to the referee.

Well, I looked if all the 15m mark lane ropes are lined up across the pool and they seem to are from my viewpoint.

The commentators did not say which stroke they were talking about because in the breaststroke the 15m rule does not apply.

However in such televised events, it becomes pretty obvious if strong failures to comply with the rules are not being noted by officials and everybody watching is horrified. Cameras can pick up such oversights but it often depends on the viewing angle.

No phones please

Today at the swimming meet I saw an official using a phone and texting during the races.

I was shocked. Imagine a football lines man/woman texting on the phone whilst the players are on the other side of the pitch.

All pupils and kids are not allowed to use their phones whilst in school but then come to a swimming meet and see an official texting on their phone during races.

I am frankly appalled, not only that the use of phones seems to be tolerated by referees but also that kids get such stupidly bad examples set by adults.

You are not allowed to text whilst driving, so why should it be OK to text whilst officiating?

Officials are important

Just heard that a distance meet planned in conjunction with Chelsea and Westminster swimming club at their pool for next week Thursday has had to be cancelled for a lack of officials.

It can happen, that if a club wants to get swimmers into a meet that the club will not be accepted if they do not bring officials.

I am very pleased that I have now become a J2 and will be very willing to encourage other parents to become officials too.

touches at the end and turns

I am noticing lots of swimmers do over-dramatic touches at turns and at the finish to ensure they can show they touch with both hands. That is especially important for breaststroke and butterfly.

The touch should always be the natural conclusion of the stroke and not slow it down in any way.

A fast touch is very important.

In the breststroke a double-touch can happen above or below the water or on the water-line, as long as the hands are on the same horizontal plane and do not stack completely on top of each other and touch at the same time.

I see many swimmers touching and dramatising the simultaneous touch with both hands at the same level. I am under the impression they do that to avoid disqualification. But this slows down the swim.

Hesitation to touch or to emphasize the dramatic double touch slows down the swim and it is not in the best interest of the sport for this to happen.

I think swimmers should concentrate to perfect the stroke and touch as fast as possible and not worry too much about the swimming judge seeing the touch correctly.

If it happens that a disqualification occurs but the swimmer is certain that the double touch happened correctly, I think that the disqualification should be protested rather than slowing down the swim to get an over-emphasized clear touch.

If there are many protests the sport will have to move to instal cameras above each lane so that in case of query a judging team can monitor the camera footage to get an objective look at the swim. #swimfast #swimskilful

Other sports already introduced camera monitoring I think that swimming should invest in this technology.

Please note the picture is just to show breaststroke.

 

A busy weekend

As a parent I am now fully involved in Madison’s swimming career and as there is little chance of Madison giving up swimming in the near future, I decided to go for qualifying further along the officials path.

On Saturday 19.11.17 I officiated at the ESSA Secondary School championships, a very worthwhile chore, as several records had been broken and thanks to Nick Gillingham Academy, here is one of them. I can be seen on lane 7.

I didn’t have a swimmer at this event as Madison’s school does not have any swimmers. But I very much want to support those who bring swimming to their school communities.

On Sunday, I officiated at the Hackney Aquatics championships, with an unbelievably good atmosphere and great community spirit, an occasion where mainly younger swimmers take their first steps into competition. Madison took part and won several medals and entered the finals.

Helping the sport

If only those parents whose swimmers make it to the top would help with swimming duties or organising galas, club functions etc, we would have very few helpers.

The better the sport is organised the more possibilities there are for more swimmers to prosper and benefit in the sport.

I actually quite enjoy helping when my own swimmer isn’t competing, as I look at the sport as a whole and not just onto how my own swimmer performs. I need to be as impartial as possible and keep my mind on the smooth running of the meet rather than just my own swimmer.

But of course having my swimmer get into a high level meet is a special bonus. Most parents start off helping with the club, officiating because their own child swims. That is how it has to be as only volunteers run the sport events.

I have seen people demand for the employment of professional judges and referees but the sheer volume of swimming competitions would make that a very expensive option and not sustainable at all.

It’s all about facilitating options for swimmers to compete. My own swimmer just loves competitions, they are the culmination of weeks of swimming practise day after day and often twice a day.

But often as swimmers get older and do no longer need constant close supervision, I can sneak off and help out at competitions at the weekends. It is great to be able to help those succeed who have the dedication, skill and time to compete to the highest levels.

Youth Games swimming

I spend the Saturday officiating at Crystal Palace because the brilliant Balfour Beatty organisation, that kindly sponsors the London Youth Games relies on volunteers to help at those games.

It was a brilliant day and everybody enjoyed their swims. Madison swam for Tower Hamlets.