In collaboration with FINA, a number of National Federations have successfully trialled the use of several new technology tools, in the form of a virtual swim trainer and race analysis software. The initiatives fall under FINA’s Olympic Aquatic Support Programme, which was designed to empower FINA National Federations globally with the opportunity to develop and strengthen their activities in all aquatics disciplines, from grassroots to elite level. The programme will see FINA allocate up to USD 4.7 million in development spending in 2022.

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The Portuguese Swimming Federation is using race analysis software to record and evaluate performances in national and international competitions, specifically the start, swimming, turn and finish. Recording these critical phases of a swim race have allowed for data to be studied and evaluated in great detail. The combination of pool deck and academic knowledge is now providing a well-rounded race analysis for coaches to use as a pivotal tool to improve elite swimmer progression. “Race analysis software has been a pivotal tool in the progression of our elite swimmers,” said two-time Olympic coach Luís Cameira. “We received important details on swimming index, technique, speed, starts, turns and underwaters. Evidence-based data has played a key role in athlete performance improvements in recent years.”

The Austrian Swimming Federation, through a combination of videos, reports and consultations, is also using race analysis data to help coaches optimise training schedules and plan more effective race strategies for its athletes. “In modern swimming, technology and analysis services are one of the most important parts of successful team support,” said Austrian Swimming Federation swim performance analyst Marek Polach. “The difference between swimmers at major competitions is often incredibly close, so it is necessary to use the technology available to split up the race in different sections and subsequently study each detail of swimming movement in these sections.”

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In 2021, the Malaysia Swimming Federation began to explore the benefits of introducing a virtual swim trainer, an innovative system used to track a swimmer’s pace using LED lighting technology. The Federation used the virtual swim trainer to conduct a pilot study with two junior national swimmers. Data analysis over a two month period showed that through a combination of coaching and the virtual swim trainer, the swimmers were able to improve their performance by 5-9% during a 200m breaststroke time trial. “The virtual swim trainer technology played a significant role in reducing the coach’s workload through a pre-planned training programme via a mobile app,” said Malaysia Swimming Federation adviser Dr. Thung Jin Seng. “Automated timing replaced the coach walking up and down the pool deck, which created free time for the coach to focus on improving other areas of the swimmer’s performance.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Malaysian Swimming Federation from further testing, but data revealed that the virtual swim trainer is likely to have a greater impact on young swimmers, when athletes have greater flexibility to introduce permanent, long term swimming patterns and training techniques. FINA will continue to work closely with its 219 National Federations and lead the way in introducing cutting-edge technology to help improve aquatics globally.