SWIMNEWS ONLINE: March 1996 Magazine Articles

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Anita Lonsbrough

How often have we heard that swimming does not have spectator appeal, or swimmers lamenting the lack of money in the sport?

Swimming, one has to admit, is considered a minor sport until it comes to the Olympic or Commonwealth Games. Then it is second only to athletics.

Modern technology has played a large part in the demise of the popularity of swimming. Most people think of it as a cap and goggles bobbing up and down in water.

Others claim it does not have the same appeal as athletics because swimmers are in lanes and there is no bunching and jostling. Yes, this is true, but one could argue you therefore get a true winner and not someone who just sat in and sprinted into the lead before the tape.

Short course swimming has added a new dimension to the sport. It is perceived to be quicker and more exciting because of the many more turns. It is a great way to help lift the profile of swimming. The World Short Course Championships and World Cup sereis have helped to keep the sport in the public eye. But without the competitors, this is becoming more and more difficult to do. The two World Short Course Championships held so far were bereft of many of the top stars.

Making the best of the opportunity: Costa Rica's Claudia Poll won two golds and set a world record at II World Short Course Championships, later competed in 96 World Cup winning four events and prize money. For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Although both of these events were not well supported by the leading names of the sport, those wo competed and won titles have reaped the benefits, A world title, whether long or short course, or being a World Cup winner looks impressive on any CV when trying to impress sponsors.

Money is coming into the sport slowly, maybe not as quickly as competitors would like and certainly nowgere near the rate or amount as in athletics. But on the other hand, the crowds are not as great nor are swimmers seen to compete as often.

The World Cup has money on offer, yet the top names have not been hungry enough to compete. If swimmers want to increase their incomes, then surely they must be willing to change their outlooks. Since many of the old beliefs about training and racing, have been eroded over the years perhaps now is the time for coaches and swimmers to think seriously about maintaining a high profile all year round, not just at the Olympic Games.

Sponsors, as hard as they are to come by outside the swimwear companies, want a return for their money. They sponsor to get publicity, and swimmers not taking part in the media-covered events are not going to give a good return.

Let's not hear swimmers moaning about lack of money at press conferences at the Olympic Games when they do not seize the opportunities available, few that they may be.

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