Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here. Originally Published 5/17
“When I was your age we had to walk to practice. Ten miles, in the snow, uphill both ways. And we also had to do 12,000 meters a session, not like how these young punks are doing today, with their race pace and their space science! Grumble, grumble, grumble.”
With each new generation of up-and-coming swimmers is another fading from view, rhapsodizing about years gone by, about how much more difficult things were, but simultaneously how much better it was (“it was just a simpler time, man!”).
While keeping an eye on the “back in my day” count – I’ll keep it to single digits – here are ten signs that you swam in the 1990’s–
1. Live results? Online? What kind of voodoo magic is that?
If you wanted to find out what a competitor did across the state in relatively real time, you had to have a friend in attendance who would call you on a Zach Morris-edition (see: Saved by the Bell if you don’t understand the reference) Motorola brick phone. Now results are usually posted online for the swim community to see before the swimmer has a chance to look up at the clock herself.
2. No swimming news.
Back then I got my swimming news and results via two swimming magazines. Because of the time to print and shipping they’d typically show up months after the competitions they covered were raced. End of season issues were particularly grating in hindsight; often the championship issue arrived well into the beginning of the new season.
3. You didn’t make a pump up playlist, you made a pump up mixtape.
A lot of thought goes into a proper sequence of songs when creating a pump up list. What you are going to listen to in the car on the way to the pool. Your stretching tunes. That one track you are gonna melt your face with in the ready room.
Back in my day (sorry!) there was an additional layer of care when deciding a mix tape, because you couldn’t reorder them when you were done without having to go back and re-record over everything. Thankfully towards the end of the decade mix tapes gave way to mix CD’s.
(On a side note, even if you only once spent half the day with your finger on the record button on your boombox, waiting for your favorite song to come on the radio, and then missed it because you were in the bathroom – than you know the struggle.)
4. The music during warm-up at meets was epic. (Mostly.)
Instead of Ke$ha, The 1975, and whatever other bang-a-boom you crazy kids are listening to nowadays we had Metallica, New Kids On the Block, and Guns n’ effin’ Roses blasting during warm-up at competitions! To this day every time I hear “Welcome to the Jungle” my heart rate picks up a little bit and my instinct is to hunt for a lane that isn’t overcrowded.
5. Once you’d graduated to compact discs, you’d lug around a leather-bound case containing your favorite 87 CD’s.
It’s hard to imagine now, but in the 90’s, if you wanted to listen to two songs from different artists, you’d have to stop playback, switch discs, and pray that it wasn’t too scratched to play without skipping and hope to the Holy of Holies that the 1 bar left on the battery indicator for your Sony Discman would be enough to listen to your favorite song twice. Oh and forget about putting that thing in your pocket, and like, walking around. Anti-skip was just a big of a myth as anti-fog goggles.
6. You watched your races on your parents old beta-max.
The video was shaky, the screams of nearby parents drowned out just about everything else (though I guess now we just have them screaming hysterically in HD instead), and you had to adjust the tracking! Oh, the tracking.
7. You wore tearaways to practice and swim meets.
Even though you knew they would get ripped off at least a dozen times by friends and teammates over the course of the weekend, and the time it took to put them back together far outweighed the time you saved by ripping them yourself, they still looked rad….right?
8. You hung out with the Tanners and Winslows on Friday nights.
On Friday night, after a long week of training and school, you’d come home after your PM practice, pour yourself a popcorn-bowl sized portion of pasta and watch Full House, Perfect Strangers, Step by Step or my personal favorite, Family Matters.
Not to be outdone, post-Saturday mornings were ripe for more television watching as well. Who could possibly forget Hammerman, MC Hammer’s short-lived foray into cartoon television? I know I sure did!
9. You didn’t have a blog or Facebook page, you had a Geocities site!
When the internet was an infantile set of connecting tubes there was no social media sites to post pictures of our food, and no blog platforms for us to leave racy and anonymous comments on.
Instead, if we were mildly computer savvy we had our own Geocities site. Strewn with ads, our Geocities site usually had a couple pictures of our favorite swimmers (Tom Dolan, Summer Sanders, Kieren Perkins, Krisztina Egerszegi and Curtis Myden were popular choices) and links to the couple of swimming websites online.
Swimming fashion has changed a little since the 1990’s as well. We went from wearing almost nothing (the prototypical Speedo brief), to Australia’s Ian Thorpe in the late 1990’s wearing a wetsuit to the pool. Things would bounce back after the rubber suit escapades of 2008-2009 and settle on the modest length of a jammer, but long dead are the days of seeing the top swimmers in the world all rocking out Speedos.
I know there are some other ways that you know you swam in the 1990’s. Let’s hear them in the comments below!
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1500000 false starts until the race finally is underway.
Diving in, swimming 15m out and back before the backstroke start.
Suuuuuper long underwater phase (anyone remember Pankratov in ’96?)
Things just generally took a lot longer than today.
But it doesn’t matter what anyone says – ’92 to ’04 was the best period in swimming history.
I still get all hot and bothered when I think of Alex Popov in his teeny tiny speedo 🤣
The good old days…
Good and creative work, Olivier!
Power bars, power gel.
What about us swimmers from the 60s and 70s? That comparison would be epic. Ocean Champions with skirts for girls. Square rubber caps; breaststroke rules; belly whomp starts; wooden lane lines, Bulova watches; the list goes on.
The backstroke start whit no limite to come out !
I use to come out at 35 m , and i think it was Shaun Murphy in the Olympic trial’s in 1988 , i was in is heat in the prelim’s ,use to come out just before the turn and after that year they put a limite at the first rope.
growing up in NY/NJ in the 80’s and 90’s summer swimming means waking up at 5:30am and heading to your town swim club that your club team rented it’s pool for a 3 hour morning workout with 72 degree water. I don’t recall any outdoor pool having a heater.
starters pistol, the wooden blocks that the timer had to stand on for backstroke starts, my go to snack for refueling was tiger milk bars that had an after taste for days.
team jackets with motivational patches on sleeves coolest kids had AAAA patches
The zoomer scars on my feet from training to do 40m breakouts…
Learning the ‘new’ backstroke turn…
SCM prelims & LCM finals; where did those meets go?
Post Trials Olympic selection – 1996 shudder…
Being convinced that Popov would make the double-triple…
I’d get two papersuit briefs for NCAAs because those weren’t too expensive and were in the budget. I was actually sent to Dynamo’s swim shop at their pool and told to tell them to just put the order on our team account. The larger one for the 1650, and the smaller one for the 200-500. I’d give one suit away to a teammate at the next December classic.
I alternate between 3 brands of inexpensive but completely functional goggles, each about $4: Swedish, Hind Compy, or Speedo Sprint. I used to take a second pair to the blocks in case one broke before the race. A new pair that I’d first wear the day before a meet would Ben… Read more »
That is exactly the life of a swimmer from that generation. I still use Swedish goggles. When they make ‘me better, I’ll switch. But nothing is better than the foamless Swedish goggles.