The 8 Swimmers You See Behind the Blocks

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.

We train with a diverse set of swimmers each and every day. They have their own weird little idiosyncrasies that make them unique, and the way that they need to prepare themselves to race behind the blocks is no exception.

Here are 8 different swimmers that we see behind the blocks at our local meets:

Captain Insane-o. Intensity personified, this swimmer indulges in a bit of chest pounding, a little grunting and a side of self-talk that comes straight out of the beginning of a rap song. The white-knuckle fashion that they grab the blocks makes you briefly wonder if they are bolted in tightly enough.

Chatty Cathy/Chester. We all deal with our nerves in different ways, and for Chatty Cathy and Chatty Chester it’s by way of yapping your ear off. By the end of the meet you come to know all about their family history, planned college major, pet’s names, and oh-my-God can you believe last week’s episode of Game of Thrones?

The Showman. For this swimmer it’s not just racing, it’s showtime. The showman makes the pre-race routine an entertainment event, spicing up what are the usual name announcement and perfunctory wave that most swimmers issue. A certain Gary Hall Jr. with his shadow boxing and fighter’s robe was great at this. Just make sure you can back up the showmanship with lightning speed in the pool.

Jitter Bug. Every so often comes along a swimmer who you just wish could get in the water so that they could be given sweet relief from the visible anxiety they are experiencing. Both legs pumping wildly, arm swings so high in velocity you picture them flying off and hitting the bulkhead at the other end of the pool. This poor swimmer cannot stand still for half a moment for fear of exploding from nervous energy.

Thousand Yard Stare. This is Michael Phelpsmodus operandi. A blank, thousand yard stare down the length of the pool. This dialed in, uninterruptible trance helps the athlete visualize the upcoming race while also warding off any nearby Chatty Chesters.

See Also: Swimming Goggles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Mr. Relaxed. On the other end of the excitability spectrum is this swimmer. So relaxed, so chill, so loose is this swimmer that they appear on the verge of nodding off at a moment’s notice. Even on the blocks he appears like he is moments from passing out, and yet, when the starter’s gun off this swimmer represents.

The Trash Talker. This type makes you grateful for noise-canceling headphones. But every once in a while – a.k.a. between songs – you’ll hear this swimmer talking about how they could have swam faster in the prelims. Pointing out how slow you went. Saying that you have an “interesting” stroke, all the way to, “You suck, your team sucks, and I am going to beat you like you owe me money.”

Splashy McSplasherson. There are a variety of props behind the blocks that can be used in the moments before your race. Some swimmers like splashing themselves – and anyone in a 25 foot radius – before getting up on the blocks. You can augment this, like Amy Van Dyken did back in the day, by also spitting into the lane of the swimmer next to you. Legendary Canadian breaststroker Victor Davis did this on occasion as well.

Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to pre-race antics either – Davis rather infamously booted a chair at the 1982 Commonwealth Games after a relay disqualification. In front of the Queen no less!

Can you think of any other types of swimmers that we see behind the blocks? Let’s hear ‘em in the comments below!

About YourSwimBook

YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.

NEW: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.

Join the YourSwimBook weekly newsletter group and get motivational tips and more straight to your inbox. Sign up for free here.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

The ghost- the relay swimmer who shows up 5 seconds before he goes up and proceeds to smoke everyone. Then gets out and then disappears not to be seen for the rest of the meet.

7 years ago

I knew a guy a few years ago who I think was a mix of 1 and 3. He was in such a trance before a race, I felt like if I interrupted him, he’d murder me.

7 years ago

I’m like a mixture of the 1000 yard stare and the Insane-o. I give this murderous stare while jumping up and down and smacking my thighs right before a race XD

7 years ago

I’m the opposite of the trash-talker. I talk about how terrible I feel and how I’m gonna get blown out, and then usually blow others out

7 years ago

I am so Captain Insane-O!!!!!!!!!!!Also it should be the swimmer who goes up to everyone and says “Good Luck” to them.

7 years ago

How about the swimmer who dips their hand in water and make a sign turning the 200,000 pool into a special Font.

8 years ago

Mr. Relaxed: Klete Keller in 2000 when they caught him yawning during the intros.

Reply to  JD
8 years ago

However yawning increases blood flow

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

Read More »