Timing System Questions Heading Into Final Night of European Long Course Championships

Column by Steven V. Selthoffer, Swimming World Chief European Columnist

DEBRECEN, Hungary, May 27. DAY six of the evening sessions of the 31st European Long Course Swimming Championships concluded with TWO semifinal swim offs, one in the women's 50m breaststroke and the other in the women's 50 freestyle- both for eight place involving five swimmers.

The meet has been run for the benefit of the swimmers as an additional attempt to get FINA A cut and B cut times for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In short 50 meter and 100 meter distances, swimmers sometimes have the same time. This is a known factor. Though it is not common in the sport, it is anticipated and factored in, with rules in place to govern the outcomes in eventual ties with swim-offs. But, this meet has been different, very different, calling into question some of the results.

Let's examine the facts.

On day six in the women's 50m breaststroke semifinal there was a tie for eighth place between Martina Moravcikova, CZE, and Mariya Liver, UKR, who posted the exact same time of 31.96. Moravcikova, CZE, won the swim-off with a 31.70.

Then, in the women's 50m freestyle semifinal, there was another tie for eighth place. This time it was a three-way tie between Daniela Schreiber, GER, Sarah Blake Bateman, ISL, and Anna Dowgiert, POL, who posted the exact same times of 25.38, forcing a swim-off for the final heat won by Bateman, ISL, in 25.24.

The ties for eighth place didn't end there.

On Monday, Day 1 in the men's 50m fly semifinal, there was a tie for eighth place. Between Yauheh Tsurkin, BLR, and Francois Heersbrandt, BEL, who tied for eighth with the exact same time of 23.77.

Then on Friday, Day 5 in the men's 50m breaststroke semifinal, there was another tie for eighth place between Dragos Agache, ROU, and Valeriy Dymo, UKR, who tied for eighth with the exact same time of 27.99.

Four semifinals, nine swimmers, all tied for eighth place. That is a statistical anomaly that should be a cause for concern for anybody and triggering red flags everywhere.

The eighth-place ties didn't end there either.

On Wednesday, Day 3 in the men's 200 fly heats, there was a tie for eighth place between Nimrod Shapira Bar Or, ISR, and Stefanos Dimitriadis, GRE, 1:58.97.

That's five ties for 8th place.

Then in the men's 100m semifinal, there were two ties for fifth place and seventh place. In the women's 50m fly semifinal, there was a tie for 13th place, while there was a tie for 12th place in the women's 100m freestyle semifinal.

That's SEVEN semifinals with ties?

Going through the heats there were other patterns of ties, by event and the ties appear to be in clusters, per event, by place, then they repeat themselves in other events, by place. If they are not exact, they cluster before or after a group of previous ties.

What is happening here? What is going on with the quantity of ties and the exact placement of ties?
To any amateur observer they stand out as statistical anomalies raising concerns and questions on timing system data integrity issues.

Take a Look at This…
On Wednesday, Day 3, men's 200 fly, there was a tie for 25th place. Between Nico Van Duijn, SUI, and Alon Mandel, ISR, home in 2:02.02.

In the men's 200 breaststroke, there was another tie for 25th place again. With Jowan Qupty, ISR, and Maxim Podoprigora, AUT, posting a 2:16.72.

Then, in the men's 50m backstroke, there was a third tie for 25th place. Between Adam Szilagyi, HUN, and Gabor Balog, HUN, who delivered the exact same time of 26.32.

Wednesday had three separate ties for 25th place in three different events, plus four semifinals and one heat all for eighth-place ties.

It is time for the experts to examine all of the heats in all of the events to determine how many ties there have been and why. The story may be just beginning and let's go possibly to the source event.

Software System Error?
Let's take a look at the men's 100m backstroke on Day 1. This is an unusual cluster of ties in quantity and repeating exactly in numerical placing in other events.

The swim-offs began on Day 1 in the heats of the men's 100m backstroke between Mikhail Zvyagin, RUS, and Andreas Olvik, EST, both posting 55.87 for 21st place. They had a swim-off to be in the semifinals with Zvyagin, RUS, winning in 55.97, placing Olvik in the alternate spot.

However, it should be noted that there were SIX other ties in the SAME event in the heats that day.

Rank/Place 6. Helge Meeuw, GER, 54.78 and Vitaly Borisov, RUS, 54.78. Heat 5, lanes 4 and 5.
Rank/Place 10. Pavel Sankovich, BLR, 54.96 and Matteo Milli, ITA, 54.96. Heat 4, lane 3, heat 5, lane 6.
Rank/Place 19. Pedro Diogo Oliveira, POR, and Gabor Balog, HUN, 55.83, Heat 1, lane 4 and heat 6, lane 8.
Rank/Place 21. Mikhail Zvyagin, RUS, and Andreas Olvik, EST, 55.87, Heat 4, lane 1, heat 6, lane 1.
Rank/Place 26. Matas Andriekus, LTU, and Martin Zhelev, BUL, 56.36, Heat 3, lane 5, heat 3, lane 3.
Rank/Place 36. Lukas Raeuftlin, SUI, and Andriy Nikishenko, UKR, 57.31, Heat 3 lane 6, heat 3 lane 7.

Twelve swimmers, six different pairs had identical times in one event.

In heat 3, four people tied, with two pairs with the same time.

In heat 5, three people had the tied, two tying in heat 5, one heat 5 swimmer, tying a swimmer in heat 4.

Now look at this… In the women's 100m breaststroke there was also tie for 26th place, similar to the men's 100m backstroke, (and another for 35th place).

In the men's 100 breaststroke there was another tie for 19th place, similar to the men's 100 backstroke above, but, this time it was a three-way tie. Between Anton Lobanov, RUS, Caba Siladji, SRB, and Panaglotis Samilidis, GRE, with the exact same time of 1:01.90.

And there were also ties for 17th place, but, more significantly another identical tie for 35th place, similar to women's 100m breaststroke.

Women's 100m freestyle, there were ties for 16th and 36th places. The 36th place matches again the men's 100m back.

And, in the men's 200 breaststroke, there was another tie for 6th place, between Flavio Bizzarri, ITA, and Michael Jamieson, GBR, 2:13.00, again similar in numerical place to the sixth-place tie in the men's 100m back.

Is this a coincidence? It's time for an investigation and to look at the patterns. This meet and the timing system data should be compared to other European Championships, and the data from the timing system used in this meet, should be compared to other meets in which the same system was used.

Swimming World is currently examining every heat, every event, and every tie to ascertain the quantity, places, and clusters of the ties for the experts to draw their conclusions and for any and all questions to be answered.

In case of any possible system failure, make no mistake about it, the athletes who have tied deserve the benefit of the doubt and an automatic free ticket and entry into the London 2012 Olympic Games in their respective events.

Special thanks to Kilian Hoffmeister, Bonn, GER, for his assistance with this report.