In a sport where victory is often decided by hundredths of a second, members of Purdue’s swimming team are taking advantage of many techniques to give them an edge at this week’s Big Ten Championships.
The swimmers plan on wearing special suits that are engineered to give them an edge in the water for the four-day meet. The suits, which can cost hundreds of dollars and need to be approved by FINA, swimming’s international governing body, are worn only for the biggest meets of the season.
In addition to the suits, freshman Josh Ehrman also said the swimmers will be shaving their bodies in order to minimize drag in the water. His teammates agreed with him when he said it wasn’t the biggest factor to the team’s success.
“There’s obviously a (different feel) when you shave and put a suit on and that always helps … to get a fresh suit out of the box,” Ehrman said. “But I really think it’s a mental edge more than anything. It does give you an actual advantage, but its more mental.”
For the past three weeks, the men have been undergoing the very specific process of tapering cutting their daily workouts in order to be fully rested for race day.
Senior Lyam Dias detailed how head coach Dan Ross personalizes each swimmer’s taper regimen specifically to the individual and how much of a difference it can make on race day.
“He plans out every practice carefully over the course of the three-week period. It descends every day, but he’s still really smart with certain sets to put a little sting in my practices,” Dias said. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve come to Purdue about the whole complicated process ... I put a whole lot of trust in him and just go along with his plan.”
For his part, Ross said the more time he’s able to spend with certain swimmers, the better he’s able to develop a specific plan for them.
“It’s the young guys that haven’t done the work we’ve done, one way or another, so it’s just different. And we as coaches, we haven’t seen them rest yet; we don’t really know what to expect,” Ross said. “Then the older they get, fewer and fewer things work, and we focus on those few things for each kid and make sure that those are the things that we focus on.”
Junior Manuel Gutierrez agreed that the most important preparations for big meets come in the pool, but he admitted that high-tech suits and shaving play a role in getting the team motivated to swim their fastest.
“Sometimes it just takes a change in mindset to get into a racing mode unlike anything you’d have for dual meets,” Gutierrez said. “Putting on a suit, putting on a better cap, shaving, all that, if anything it gets your mind ready to race in a way different setting.”
The Big Ten Championships will take place in Ann Arbor, Mich., beginning Wednesday night with the first relay events and concluding on Saturday evening.