FINA World Championships, Swimming: Steven Selthoffer on Scene in Italy

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By Steven V. Selthoffer, Swimming World European correspondent

ROME, Italy, July 30. SWIMMING is an outside sport. The spectacular Floro Italico venue continued to prove it again and again for another day of world record competition.

Jacco Vanhearan, head coach for The Netherlands, talking exclusively with Swimming World on his and the Dutch Team's experience so far. "The tournament, the whole set up, the transportation for the athletes, the hotels, the stadium, is incredible. It's a shame, they told us that we are not going to swim outdoor anymore, but… (pause) I know it's hot, but… Swimming is an outdoor sport. I really hope they change this conclusion. The atmosphere here is totally great."

The Netherland's women's 400m free relay, composed of Inge Dekker, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Femke Heemskerk, and Marleen Veldhuis won in a WR time of 3:31.72, just touching out Germany in 3.31.83, also under the old mark. "It as an incredible race," stated Vanhearan, "more exciting than the Olympics. Of course, the Olympics is the best medal you can get, but, it was a big improvement for our ladies so we are very happy with that."

Reflecting back and analyzing the training in Eindhoven, NED, he said, "In the last six months in the workouts, we have not changed too many things. The girls are getting stronger. We are doing a little bit more volume, but, we hardly ever go more than 50k per week. But, there is a lot of intensity workouts in it. We are doing five dry land sessions per week, three weight sessions, for the stabilizing and two other dryland workouts (composed of other activities, running, aerobics, etc.) So we are pleased."

Tech Suits and Manufacturers
The swimsuit controversy continues with staff, promotion and activities focusing on the "New World Order" with the Jaked 01 in first place with approximately 20 medals, the Arena X-Glide in second with 12 and the Speedo LZR in third with seven. One manufacturer's rep (choosing to remain anonymous) stood near this morning, refusing to comment publicly, lifting his eyebrows and smiling about the whole situation.

The Best of the World Championships

Synchronized in Perfection – Omega Timing
Clearly, one of the best aspects of the FINA World Championships is the timing systems and display technologies used throughout the venues.

Omega Swiss Timing continues to perform flawlessly. Omega's timing system, touch pads, integrated scoreboards, Internet and Intranet feeds, various other presentation technologies, are all integrated and synced and have been providing real time information and data delivery to television, spectators, the IBC, and MPC without crashing, each time, every time, 24 hours round the clock.

Speaking with the legendary Peter Huerzeler, former Vice President and now a Board Member, Omega Swiss Timing, he is currently overseeing Omega's timing operations at World Championships, "We are doing some good new work. We usually build a new system every four years (due to technology advances, bandwidth increases, etc.) and the improvements are rather good." He mentioned that he is now retired and was here on a special assignment, much to the friendly, soft-toned objections, heard down the length of the room, from staff hunched over their laptops, who did not want to see him retire.

Inside the timing operations center poolside, Huerzeler pointed and showed Swimming World the new photo-caption system used in the events. Mounted above the blocks, it can capture the swimming events, with 100 pictures per second. "This is totally new. We had another Phelps-Cavic situation here, but, the press and world doesn't know about it. Because it was not with them, but, between a second and third place finisher (in a men's 200 fly event)."

Then on Omega's new, proprietary software on a 24" monitor, unspoken, with the move of a finger, he cued his manager to machine it up. It showed a Polish and Japanese swimmer coming within a meter of the finish. One clearly was the closest within 20 cm of the finish and was with arms extended and gliding in… the other (outside the frame of the picture at first!) swung his arms as fast as possible on the last stroke.

Observing the race, in 100 frames per second, you could see the winner was the swimmer swinging his arms and out touching the "closer" swimmer by only one-hundredth of a second. The system worked flawlessly. A perfect call. No mistakes. No controversy. Long overdue video systems establishing the "clear" winner.

Embedded next to the picture, on the Microsoft based system, were various analytics and the official run time of the event.

"Really good uh?"

A small smile crossed everyone's faces.

FINA now has a policy of not releasing any of the photos to the press as they hold exclusive copyrights to the Omega Swiss Timing photo system.

Omega's software system is totally proprietary, built from the ground up, by a team of more than 275 IT, software, hardware, timing system, television, Internet/Intranet, and event specialists and professionals.

Huerzeler stated, "We don't do just swimming, but, my team here does all the Olympic sports. All 39 summer sports and 23 winter Olympic sports. We also just did the non-Olympic Sport Games in Asia. Time keeping is multi-sport. We've been doing this since 1932. It's just a tremendous team that we have."

The Beauty of Water Polo
Without a doubt the water polo venue has won the hearts and minds of the spectators. Smaller than the main swimming venue, as you enter, it offers easy access to the players as they come walking out of the ready room, down the steps directly in front of the fans. An incredible experience for small children, younger, age-group players and fans. All the athletes were respectable, accommodating, and reachable before and after the matches. Bringing a necessary breath of fresh air to an otherwise turbulent political run up to the Championships.

Not lost on the television networks was that the water polo venue was "the place to be seen." The venue is bathed in the vinyl overlay of "Rome blue" created a unique feeling of stepping into an arena that only Rome with its Coliseum could generate.

It is hot and swimming and water polo are outside events. So, the stands were filled with bikini'd and bikini-topped women in groups of two's, three's and fours, all naturally, making the very numerous television "honey shots" between the action. Brazil, Italy, Sweden, and Denmark were particularly strong in this event, marked by the painted flags on their cheeks (faces). During the game, the crowd applauded shot after shot. Oh, no. Sorry. I don't mean shots on goal, but, honey shots posted live on the large stadium screens. One player was caught and yelled at by his coach, during a time out, for viewing the large jumbo LED screen too often. Who could blame him?

Back to the action. In the men's water polo tournament, of Australia versus Italy, the match referees have been excellent. No question, and with no controversies. In the match referees Mihaljo Ciric, SRB, and Ulrich Spiegel, GER, called a tough match, with Australia eventually prevailing, coming out on top 8-6. One thing that has been working, is the quality of refereeing has gradually improved across the board in FINA as a direct result of the numerous clinics and screening processes.

Live from Rome.
Ciao bella!

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