Swimming as a Contact Sport: Hear me out, I’m onto something

By: Hannah Bonanducci

Waltonian | The Waltonian Michael Phelps swimming 100 meter butterfly. Source: Olympics.com

Picture this with me: it’s the Olympics (whatever year you want, I don’t care). You’re in your family living room, all of you sitting on the couch with your own plate of pizza bagel bites. You’re all jazzed for the next swim race after watching gold-winning legend Tom Daley knit yet another adorable shirt that he’s going to sell after he wins another gold for the diving category. He’s hyping up Michael Phelps, who’s ready to crush this next race.

The ten swimmers line up in their respective lanes. You’re a solid Michael Phelps fan, and so when they all start racing, he’s the only one your eyes are tracking. He’s doing a phenomenal job, as always. You know he’s going to win! You’re so into the race that you barely even notice the other swimmers disappearing until…

Michael Phelps goes down. 

Out of nowhere. 

And looking at the other lanes, so has everyone else. What the heck? 

After about twenty seconds of confused murmuring, a buzzer goes off and Michael Phelps appears again, scrambling to get to the edge of the pool and pulling himself out. And all that’s left in the middle of the Olympic-sized swimming pool is a high school boy with a mischievous grin. You watch him leisurely finish his last few laps in stunned silence, confused as to what has just happened on screen.

Welcome to swimming as a contact sport, where there are now obstacles, and those obstacles are other swimmers that can pull you down or toss you around until you surrender. Lanes exist only to help you swim back and forth as needed, but have fun focusing on that part when the other swimmers start swimming under you (or, even worse, straight at you).

Tag-teaming is most definitely allowed. I mean, Michael Phelps would certainly be a two or three person job to take down. However, like most single-winner games, alliances can be broken and should never be fully trusted. Accept help at your own risk.

Surrendering is determined by the person calling defeat out loud, tapping three times if they’re underwater, or if the person is becoming/has become unconscious. Once someone has surrendered they must exit the pool. You cannot aid other swimmers by either giving verbal directions or impairing another swimmer once you are out of the pool.

The final rule is that you must complete the race to be crowned a winner. If this rule didn’t exist, then the race would simply be everyone dragging each other to the bottom of the pool. Your best strategy doesn’t have to involve taking everyone down, just taking down the ones you feel are competition.

There are a few rules left up for debate that you can discuss with friends. Should you be allowed to jump into another lane from the start of the race? Are you allowed to throw contestants out of the pool as a forced surrender? It’s a change to the sport that comes with many nuances, but with some thought and consideration, I really think we can make this work.

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