The philosopher Zeno posed a paradox that had Achilles in a footrace with a tortoise. Achilles gave the tortoise a head start and Zeno proved  that Achilles could never overtake the critter because he always found the tortoise moved from point B to point C. He could get close, but no cigar.  The essence of the problem is that one can divide distance into an infinite number of segments, but not time.

That seems to be the paradox in effect as more Olympic swimming records fall. By the turn of the next century, swimmers on the blocks will touch the other end of the distance before they get out of bed in the morning.

But to be serious, there have been changes over the years since the beginning of the modern Olympics shaved seconds off the race times.

The Start.

I used to have a Book of Knowledge encyclopedia printed in 1917 that had photographs illustrating the racing dive. The swimmers would stand crouched on the blocks with their hands behind them but on one side. Racers, who seemed to be dressed in striped long johns.  I couldn’t see whether they had a trap door. The shed the long johns before Johnny Weissmuller in 1924 and Buster Crabbe in 1928 – Both Hollywood Tarzans. 

Soon, swimmers started with their arms behind them and on either side of their bodies.

In the London Olympics, the starting block has two levels – a horizontal one and one behind that is on a 45 degree angle directly behind the swimmer. The racer has a foot on each and when the horn goes, the swimmer gets a running start. That should be good for a second or so.

The Underwater Parts.

When I was a racer, we were allowed five kicks underwater off the start and off the turns. Nowadays swimmers do the most powerful dolphin kick underwater for as long as they can before surfacing. That’s good for a few more seconds over the years.

Turns for breast stroke and butterfly needed to be done wit the shoulders parallel to the water surface. In other words, there were mo flip turns. In today’s races , flip turns are the order of the day. That should be good for another few seconds.

The Future.

It is important that records continue to be broken. Swimmers need to endorse products to keep the money rolling in. There will, however, come a time when even the average swimmer will pass Zeno’s Tortoise. New records will, at that point, be broken by adding additional races to the list:

  1. 1.    The Dog Paddle.

Swim clubs everywhere will be clamouring to spend $4600 for the privilege of teaching this new power move to the next generation of racers.

  1. 2.        Non-Swimmer Stroke (The Wade Stroke):

Why should swimmers  have all the fun. Drain the pool to waste depth. Racers wade through the nearly empty pool. Racers move their arms to mimic the original races.

  1. 3.       The Rhythms Method:

An article by Kate Kelland in the Vancouver Sun (Reuters) ( shows that whay you have on your IPod may well be the difference between 1/500th – 2/500th of a second. When I learned to ski, my mountain used to play polka music over the PA system for some reason. I learned the reason when I broke into the PA room and substituted some Rolling Stones music. Skiers became more aggressive on the slopes.

There is a reason Michael Phelps wears earphones when he approaches the blocks. I wonder what’s on his play list. I’m willing to bet it isn’t polka music. Better yet, what’s on  Ye Shiwen’s play list. She should be ready to take on the mens’ rowers.

This could be an opportunity for musicians and record companies who have been losing money as fans download their music for free. Athletes need motivational music to be assured of breaking those records.  

Mike Broderick WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he FOUND employment for people with physical disabilities.
He remains an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at  or at 604-464-4105
If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates .
Apparently 22% of companies in the Greater Vancouver area will be hiring within the next month. Get your resumes ready.



  1. energywriter Says:

    So funny, Mike. Great job as always. Might want to correct that “waste level” statement. You have the racers wading through yuck.

  2. fishing for walleye Says:

    fishing for walleye…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: