With the start of the 2012 London Olympic games, many are looking to competitive swimming as the most anticipated event, with Michael Phelps aiming to become the world record holder for the most medals ever won.
While it’s impossible to find olympic swimmers without goggles nowadays, this wasn’t always the case, as swim goggles were banned from olympic competition until 1976.
What Competitive Advantages Do Swim Goggles Offer Olympic Athletes?
Swimmers have shown time and time again that they won’t leave any stone unturned to gain an edge over their competition. Because of this, swimmers regularly shave their entire body, wear swim caps, and of course, wear swimming goggles.
While swim caps and shaving directly contribute to decreased resistance in the water, swim goggles are typically worn for comfort and visual clarity more than aerodynamic benefits. While it’s entirely possible to race competitively without goggles, a good pair of goggles allows the racer to stay straight in their lane, avoid chlorine in their eyes, and keep and eye on their competition without breaking pace.
While it’s been debated, most would agree that swimming goggles also offer minor aerodynamic benefits, although the increase in speed is marginal when compared to the aerodynamic benefits of shaving or wearing a swimming cap. While visual clarity may seem unimportant, it’s critical that swimmers hit the flip turn accurately when they reach the edge of the pool to start their next lap. Goggles allow swimmers to see the edge of the pool and allow them to prepare for their next lap without straining their eyes.
What If I Wear Contacts Or Glasses?
Luckily, most companies that manufacture swimming goggles have realized that there is a large portion of the population who needs vision correction even while they’re swimming. Prescription swim goggles have become very popular as a way for casual or competitive swimmers to wear goggles underwater without having their vision distorted. Similar to eyeglasses, prescription swimming goggles offer vision correction through a curved lens that also keeps water away from the eyes.
It’s important to know that wearing goggles and contact lenses while swimming can be dangerous and harmful to your eyes. While goggles generally keep water out, even a slight leak can get chlorinated water in your eyes, which can dislodge or damage your contacts, and can create a high level of irritation.
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