SwimSwam Pulse: 34% Say Records/Times Are Most Important to Great Race

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers what element is most important in making a great race:


Question: What is most important to you in creating a great race?

  • Records/fast times – 34.6%
  • High stakes/big meet – 25.3%
  • A close finish – 24.7%
  • Multiple lead changes – 10.1%
  • Something else – 5.4%

A little more than a third of voters said a record or a fast time was the most important element in creating a great race, with the rest of the votes mostly split between a major meet and a close finish.

The poll grew out of discussion on two of our recent stories – an editorial on what makes a great race and our Swammy Award list for the top 10 swims of 2018.

The results are a little surprising, at least from a general sports perspective. Competitions that are considered most entertaining in sports like football, baseball or basketball usually have more to do with the closeness of competition: lead changes, a close game, a major momentum swing. Consider, for example, the NFL playoffs, in which a close game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles (complete with a Saints comeback and failed Eagles comeback) was the most-viewed and a blowout New England Patriots win over the Los Angeles Chargers drew the least television viewers, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Swimming fans though – at least, in our unscientific poll – tended to favor historic swims with records or fast times: swims that, more often than not, are not close races between an even field.

That also has some bearing on one of the biggest news stories in swimming right now: the International Swimming League’s vision for a competitive, spectator-focused swimming series. The ISL has made clear that it feels the focus of its series should be on placing – not necessarily on times. This was the ISL’s position even before FINA’s recent announcement that it wouldn’t sanction athletes for competing in ISL meets, but that times (and world or world junior records) from those meets would not be recognized or verified.

About a quarter of voters did choose “high stakes/big meet” as the most important element, meaning they would value swims in a venue like the Olympics or World Championships higher than swims at a regular, in-season meet without prestige or competition. A little less than a quarter said a close finish was the most important element, while only 10% said multiple lead changes were most vital to creating a great race.


Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks voters whether high school coaches should allow their swimmers to train with a swim club while still competing with the high school team at meets:

Should high school teams allow swimmers to train with swim clubs but still compete with the high school team?

View Results

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A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner

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Caeleb Dressel’s Bandana

Times and records are important, but doing them at the Olympics is a hell of a lot harder than doing it at a meet where you have no competition

Lost in the Sauce

Interestingly enough, thought longer about this poll than probably any other. Decided that a close race had to be the biggest factor for me, though. Figured I’d watched races live at every level of swimming, and regardless of the talent in the race, a close race is always exciting for the crowd. Blowouts, whether they be amazing times or in big meets, don’t excite the audience like a tight race decided by hundreths of a second

bobo gigi

Yes I agree. We’ll remember forever Michael Phelps’ close races like the 100 fly in 2004 and 2008 or the 200 fly in 2016. Same thing about the men’s 4X100 free relay in 2008. Who cared that day about the new world record?


I agree, but the question didn’t specify to watch or compete in so results are mixed. For me a close race or multiple lead changes….but I guarantee the fast time/world record is exciting for the swimmer.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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