8 post-race reactions swimmers know and love

  25 SwimSwam | July 28th, 2014 | Featured, International, Lifestyle, Masters

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Courtesy of Ryan Turner, a swimmer at Columbia and Lancaster Aquatic Club.

One of the most entertaining aspects of this sport happens only for a brief second right after the finish of a race. It’s the look on a swimmer’s face, reacting to what they had just done in the water only moments before. Good or bad, many of these reactions have become iconic images for the sport. Some have even become internet-famous, while others are faces we never wish to see.

Here are 8 post-race reactions:

1. The Smile and Nod

The reaction we all hope to have.

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2. The Get Out and Walk Away

I’ll admit it. Back in my younger days, I did this several times. A bad race can be overwhelming but it’s important to remember that one race never defines your entire meet.

3. The Not-So-Subtle Fist Pump

It’s the reaction of a champion. There’s little that compares to the feeling of raising your fist high in victory. Nathan Adrian does it well (image  courtesy of Tim Binning).

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The Nathan Adrian fist pump, next to Brent Hayden (Photo Credit: Tim Binning, theswimpictures)

4. The Blank Stare

This is probably the most common one of them all. It’s that look of exhaustion where a swimmer is simply too tired to show any emotion.

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Michael Phelps, Tyler Clary & Ryan Lochte (courtesy of Tim Binning, theswimpictures)

5. The 2008 Michael Phelps

You just had the best race of your life and you want to let it out.

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2008 Olympic Final, 100 Butterfly: Michael Phelps celebrations winning by .01 (courtesy of USpresswire)

6. The Hand Over the Mouth

Maybe you went a best time against all odds, or maybe you’re just shocked that you finished the race.

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Kara Lynn Joyce and Dara Torres, 50 freestyle, 2012 US Olympic Swimming Trials (Swim Photo Credit: Tim Binning, theswimpictures)

7. The Lane Line Hug

Where would be without lane lines? Races would almost certainly have a different outcome if they didn’t exist. Besides helping us not crash into one another, lane lines also serve as a great thing to lounge on after a race if there isn’t a gutter to hang onto.

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Cesar Cielo, Bruno Fratus. 54º Trofeu Maria Lenk de Natacao no Parque Aquatico do Ibirapuera. 23 de abril de 2014, Sao Paulo, SP, Brasil. Foto: Satiro Sodre/SSPress

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Cesar Cielo, Bruno Fratus. 54º Trofeu Maria Lenk de Natacao no Parque Aquatico do Ibirapuera. 23 de abril de 2014, Sao Paulo, SP, Brasil. Foto: Satiro Sodre/SSPress










8. The Squint

If you have poor eyesight, it can be frustrating when you can’t see your time on the scoreboard, especially if you were hoping to swim a certain time. Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbor! (Yannick Agnel, image courtesy of Mike Lewis)

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Can you think of more post race reactions? Share them in the comments!


  1. James says:

    I have a couple more:

    1. The “look at the scoreboard and laugh because you know that the time you just swam means some brutal sets in practice this week” for bad swims

    2. The “Oh thank God, finally” reaction for good swims


    3. The no words, lean your head back all the way into the water reaction

  2. TRIPPPPP says:

    “The TRIPPPP” – similar to number two, “The get out and walk away”. This swimmer no matter what will always jump out of the pool after their swim, regardless of the result. Various swimmers on the pool deck will usually yell out “TRIPPPP”

  3. Ben says:

    how could you not have the Jaoa de Lucca post NCAA win leg thing…

  4. PAC12BACKER says:

    The best hand over mouth display followed by excited screams was likely Misty Hyman following her 200 fly win at Sydney 2000.

    • Springbrook says:

      Agreed — The only thing better than the race might be her prolonged reaction, all of which is captured here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zUFLP40nGE (between about 6:30 and 8:30). So refreshing to see unvarnished exuberance.

      • Danjohnrob says:

        I also loved the reaction of Sandeno that night. She knew Misty was a modest person, so she raised her arm up for her! That’s what I call team spirit! She was so happy for her friend you would have thought she won herself!

  5. FTDT says:

    “The South African Smash” – The South African Smash is an epic, over the top celebration that usually takes place after an incredible performance in the pool. The most popular is the Dylan Bosch bellyflop off of the blocks after an American record setting 200 fly at NCAAS. Or, after the 2014 Pittsburgh age group swimming championships, when Martin Vogel smashed his school record in the 200 fly and went nuts in the water after. The South Africans really know how to celebrate!

  6. SCHWIM says:

    Where’s the Cassidy Bayer “shock and awe” or “eye bulge out of head” reaction? That was a good one :)

  7. Robin says:

    My favorite among little age-group swimmers: “I won? Wait, am I first? Is that… right? Wait, wait, am I supposed to be swimming another lap? No? WOOHOO, I WON!”

  8. David says:

    Laying down with head on lane line.

  9. tall n wet says:

    When Bernard went 46.94 in the 100 free at the French Nationals, he pounded the water, climbed on the lane rope, flexed his guns, then pointed to the crowd. Simple but elegant

  10. Luigi says:

    Best squint ever must be Anthony Ervin’s at 2012 trials when he qualified in the 50 free and Adrian had to tell him he was in

  11. MassSwimmer says:

    My favorite ‘hand over mouth’ is the Janet Evans reaction when she won the 400 Free and smashed world record (and DDR) at the 1988 Olympics.

  12. C Martin says:

    “The Santo” – 1:38

  13. Adam says:

    Dax Hill 2012 200 free NCAA victory.

  14. Sebastiaan says:

    Did you seriously miss this one?

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DM1h2NugBQ&w=420&h=315

  15. mcmflyguy says:

    I’ve done the fist pump back in the day, I did the squint a lot, some time boards are hard to read. but my last one I don’t know what came over me but I punched the water with excitement when I hit a time I had been working towards my whole life.

  16. Mohsin says:

    Misty Hyman’s “OMFGWTFHASJUSTHAPPENED” at the Sydney Olympics.

  17. Sean says:

    Where’s the love for Roque Santos hand kiss at the 1992 Olympic Trials?

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