Physiology 101

The Auckland Age Group Championships were held this weekend. They seemed to be better organised than in the past. Oh, there were a string of problems that are part of swimming in Auckland’s West Wave Pool.

For example the West Wave roof leaks like a sieve. On Saturday morning a heavy shower put spectators in as much risk of getting wet as the competitors.

I have no idea why Swimming Auckland holds on to the “Live Results” facility on its website. Meet after meet goes by without any live results. What has happened? Are the officials too lazy? Has the facility broken down and no one knows how to fix it? Or does the Board of Swimming Auckland not care anymore? My money is on the “don’t care” option. Certainly I know that if Jo Draisey was still sitting in the administrator room, she would no more allow the “Live Results” function not to work than fly to the moon.

Swimming Auckland hangs on to their ridiculous back door/front door policy. All competitors, coaches and officials must enter through the door at the back of the pool and leave through the main doors at the front of the pool. The two doors are probably 400 meters apart – that’s quarter of a mile. I have written before about the difficulty the Swimming Auckland decision is for the handicapped. A car parked at the back door to enter the meet easily demands a long walk through the front door at the end of the meet. Only Swimming Auckland would support a decision that made attending a swim meet as difficult as possible. Actually, that’s not true; I have no doubt that Swimming New Zealand would make the same hair-brained decision.

But the decision that amazed me most was when Swimming Auckland decided to award age group medals for the 50, 100, 200 and 400 meter events but no age group medals in the 800 and 1500 meter events. Why was that decision made? Which lunatic decided that was a good idea? Why are 800 and 1500 meter races of less value than sprint and middle distance races?

We get no help from the meet poster. In fact the meet poster certainly implies medals will be awarded for all age groups even in the 800 and 1500 meter events. Here is what the meet poster says.

Medals will be awarded to the top three Auckland place-getters in each event by age group.   12/13, 14, 15, 16, 17/O. A maximum of two visitor medals will be awarded in each age-group in each event if finishing in the top three places.

There will be no medal presentations. Medals can be collected by Team Managers at the conclusion of the Session.

It is off the point of this post but do you see the news that “there will be no medal presentations”? I don’t want to be difficult but I’d love Swimming Auckland to send me an email explaining why the meet was stopped for 20 minutes on nine occasions to present medals. The most annoying feature of Swimming New Zealand is their refusal to comply with their own rules or, in some cases, the law. It looks like their junior Auckland partner is following Swimming New Zealand’s example.

Anyway back to the medals. The poster seems clear – medals will be awarded to 12/13, 14, 15, 16, 17/O age groups in “each” event. I presume the word “each” has the same inclusive meaning as it had when I was at school. But without explanation only three medals were presented in the 800 and 1500 meters as though these events were open men’s and women’s competitions – age group medals were not awarded. Why? How does Swimming Auckland explain its decision to ignore the meet poster; to disregard its own rules?

My guess is they figure young swimmers should be discouraged from swimming 800 and 1500 meter events. The best way to do that is to restrict entries and deny young swimmers the reward of a medal for placing in these events.

If that is the basis of Swimming Auckland’s decision it is ridiculously stupid. Swimwatch readers will know I am no great supporter of junior age group competition. I think far too much competitive stress is placed on young children – especially by Swimming New Zealand. Those three Junior National Championships are a disgrace. Everything about them is bad.

However physiologically one fact is certain – the physical stress of a young person swimming 800 or 1500 meters is a lot, lot less than racing 100, 200 or 400 meters. In fact the physical adaptation required to withstand the anaerobic stresses involved in swimming  middle distance events are not even present until 15 or 16 years of age. If you want to really physically hurt a swimmer below 15 years of age race him or her over 100 and 200 meters – races with a high anaerobic content. All the stuff Swimming Auckland encourage. All the hurt they support.

If you want something gentler, something young bodies can tolerate encourage them to swim high aerobic, low anaerobic events like 800 or 1500 meters. All the stuff Swimming Auckland discourages. All the benefit they deny.

Swimming Auckland should read some basic physiology before they decide to reward anaerobic events (100, 200 and 400) that hurt young bodies that have not yet developed the anaerobic capacity to handle the anaerobic stress of racing these events. Swimming Auckland should seek advice before they decide to penalise young children from taking part in aerobic events (800 and 1500) that will not only cause no harm but will physiologically benefit young children.

It may be that some readers wonder why I am so appalled by some New Zealand administrators – especially those living in Antares Place. The reason is decisions like this one. Decisions that science has long taught us are doing harm to New Zealand’s under 15 year old children – decisions that year by year are destroying the sport of swimming.

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