David Adam

Answers about swim caps, lifeguards, towels and wedgies

British diver Thomas Daley holds a towel Saturday during the 10-meter platform diving competition. | AP Photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 22, 2016 9:50 am Updated: Aug. 22, 2016 10:51 am

Why do swimmers in the Olympics wear two caps?

You may have noticed that when some swimmers finished a race during the Rio games and took their swim caps off, another cap was revealed underneath.

Pauline Vu with Yahoo Sports found out during the 2012 Olympics in London by interviewing Dave Salo, the former U.S. Olympic women's swimming assistant coach.

The first reason is that the two caps ensure that a swimmer's goggles will stay secure. The straps go between the inner and outer caps.

The second reason is, according to Salo, "the outer silicone cap better maintains the shape and does not wrinkle as much, thereby causing less drag." The inner cap is generally latex.

 

Why are lifeguards at Olympic pools?

Yes, the Olympic swimming pool has lifeguards, just in case someone like Michael Phelps needs to be rescued.

"I'm dreaming of that possibility," Anderson Fertes, a 39-year-old health-club lifeguard from Rio, told the New York Times with a smile before starting his pool deck shift at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium last week. "I think about that. It's a one-in-a-million type of event, but we're prepared."

John Branch with the New York Times wrote that even during a training session during the Olympics, Phelps was watched intensely from opposite sides of the pool deck by two men in red trunks with whistles around their necks and flotation devices tucked beneath their arms.

About 75 lifeguards, including 15 women, were hired to work the Olympic sites and training centers for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and white-water kayaking.

A Rio de Janeiro state law requires the presence of lifeguards at swimming pools larger than six by six meters, or about 20 by 20 feet. The law, intended to protect users of pools at places like recreation centers and condominium complexes, came eight years before the Olympics were awarded to Rio.

 

Why do Olympic divers use small towels?

The towels are called shammys. However, they're not the soft carpet-like towels that most people grab after they take a shower. Shammys are made of rayon or poly-vinyl and can hold up to 10 times their weight in liquid and quickly dry after being rung out.

Amie Just of the Washington Post wrote that shammys once were made of chamois skin, an animal similar to a goat that's found in Europe and western Asia. The first shammys came into popularity after Europeans used the small towels in diving competitions in the late 1960s and early '70s. Soon after, the towels were made of synthetic material.

Divers have to hold on to their legs in several positions like pikes and tucks while they are flipping and twisting in the air. If the divers' hands or legs are wet, it's easy to lose grip. That's why divers use the shammys to dry off in between dives.

Shammys are available on many swimming gear websites for anywhere between $5 and $20.

 

How do gymnasts avoid wedgies during competition?

Former U.S. gymnast Nastia Liukin told People.com that gymnasts have a few tricks to avoid them, because they could be costly.

"You're not allowed to (pick a wedgie) or else you get deducted, so a lot of people use like sticky spray (called TuffSkin) for your butt so your leotard doesn't move," she said.

"I've never used it and I know most of the girls don't really use it, though we use it for our wrists before we put tape on underneath our grips because we're sweaty and it's a little extra stick. But if you have a fall and your leotard goes up your butt, you don't want to fix it in the middle of your routine. Off to the side, it's totally fine."

Kelly McKeown is the chief design officer and executive vice president of corporate relations for GK Elite, which has been making Team USA's Olympic leotards since 2000. She told Cosmopolitan that every leotard is custom-made to fit the athlete's body perfectly.

"The athletes have such extreme body types that there is no way we could just cut a standard pattern," McKeown said. "For example, Simone Biles is incredibly muscular, but she's a mighty little package, so she has big shoulder and very little hips, so literally every part of her leotard is custom."

This custom fit is another way to ensure the leotards don't bunch or ride up when the athletes compete.

 

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