Only four days have passed since the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the swimming competition is already sizzling. A whopping 10 world records have been set in the pool (that's two more than the count from the entire Olympics meet in 2004), and Americans are leading the charge with five gold medals (15 in all) and five world records. With seven days of swimming to go, here's a look at a few factors contributing to all of the awesome water action.
The Olympic Swimming Scene
Looking like a giant illuminated Lego creation, Beijing's "Water Cube" is an architectural marvel. But it is also a high-tech haven for swimmers with its extraordinary features.
For starters, the Water Cube is three meters deep (about 10 feet) as opposed to the standard two meters of most pools -- the added depth dissipates waves and turbulence. It is also wider (10 lanes as opposed to eight), which also keeps extra wake out of the swimmer's lanes. These attributes, plus perforated gutters on either side that siphon off waves, are undoubtedly contributing to the super-fast finishes.
The Olympic Swimsuits
Gone are the days of typical tank suits -- today's swimmers sport sleeveless, full-length body suits built for speed. The most prevalent being Speedo's LZR Racer
, worn by nearly every American swimmer in the Games. Manufactured by scientists, the suit is made of an ultrasonically-welded material that cuts through water like a knife, reducing drag. Considering 33 of the 36 medals awarded thus far have gone to athletes wearing the LZR Racer, there's little doubt that the suit is also making things mighty fast in the water.
The Olympic Swimmers
The media may be transfixed on the Michael Phelps show, but there are plenty of other swimmers making their own waves in the Water Cube.
Katie Hoff is two for two in her medal count (silver in the 400m free; bronze in the 400m IM) and still has three individual races and one relay to go.
Natalie Coughlin, the darling of the 2004 Olympic games for her five medals and magazine-cover-ready smile, has already struck gold in the 100m backstroke and is up again in the 200m Individual Medley on Tuesday night (11:12 p.m. EST).
And lest we not forget about magnificent mama Dara Torres
, who, at age 41, has already secured a spot as the oldest woman to collect a medal with her silver-studded finish in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, and has a solid chance of winning the "splash and dash" (also known as the 50m freestyle).
Finals are on Saturday, August 16 at 10:03 p.m. EST. Stay tuned!Has all of the swimming action gotten you pumped to hit the pool? Check out these links for fun ways to get fit in the water!
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