The pool at the Olympics is clean, but you wouldn’t think so just by watching the athletes compete.
Immediately after completing their remarkable feats of athleticism on the world stage, instead of basking in their accomplishment, they either book it to the showers or the nearby jacuzzi. Odd as it may seem, there’s a reason beyond vanity and lack of cleanliness for doing this.
It all has to do with keeping the muscles loose during the competition. Going from the freezing pool water (the Olympic pool is kept at least 78.8 Fahrenheit for diving) to the equally freezing aquatic’s center causes the muscles in the body to tighten up which can lead to cramping or, in severe cases, injury. Bengt Saltin, a professor of human physiology at Copenhagen University and a leading expert on how muscles work, said: “Passive heating is one way of having warm muscles when you start your performance.” These showers and jacuzzies are a great and quick way for the athletes to get that passive heating to maintain warm muscles and prevent injury.
Another curious habit of divers is drying off in between doves as well, which to the layperson seems a bit pointless. You’re just getting back in the pool, what’s the point of drying off? In an interview with TODAY, Lindsey Hasselbach Adams, USA diving’s high-performance manager, and education coordinator explained that beyond keeping the muscles warm “when they spin, their spin rate is really fast, and if they’re soaking wet, they can slip out of their position, slip out of their dive and that would not be a good ending.” She also cites that it is common practice among divers to use a tacky substance like iTac to prevent slipping from occurring, along with drying off.
Want to know more about the world of the Olympics? Check out this story on the Olympic village anti-sex beds and the myths surrounding it.