Cougar Swimmers Return From Olympic Getaway

By Adam Love
WSU Sports Information

Jan. 31, 2001

This season, the Cougars rang in the New Year living like Olympians.

The Washington State University women's swim team recently returned from a two-week stay at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. For the second year in a row, the United States Olympic Committee invited the Cougars to train at the facility.

'This trip gave us the opportunity to train and live like Olympians,' WSU coach Rocco Aceto said.

The center features many pieces of advanced equipment used for advanced training and testing. This includes an overhead catwalk and underwater cameras, which allow athletes to be filmed from both above and below water. The cameras and other tools allow coaches to check the finer points of a swimmer's stroke, and see where she is getting too much drag or resistance.

'The center's technology is definitely on the cutting edge,' Aceto said. 'It allows us to dissect and analyze the biomechanics of our swimmers' strokes in ways we don't normally have access to.'

Perhaps the most popular training tool for the Cougar swimmers was the swimming flume. The flume is like a water treadmill, which has a current that can be adjusted from zero to three meters per second. This allows the current to be set at or above a swimmer's top speed, so she can truly push her limits.

'You could set the flume for world-record pace, and try to keep up with it for like 30 seconds. You really can't do that anywhere else,' sophomore swimmer Melissa Hubley said. 'Then you can look at the tape of your swim, and pick out certain things you can't see otherwise. It lets you notice a lot of things you don't even realize you do.'

With underwater cameras and a glass-sided tank, a swimmer in the flume can be seen from angles otherwise difficult to view. The flume is also contained in a hyperbaric chamber, which allows the altitude conditions to be adjusted to simulate anywhere from sea level to 8,000 feet above sea level to add to the intensity of the swim.

'You can learn so much about your stroke from looking at the video in the flume,' freshman swimmer Semah Zavareh said. 'You can't get those angles any other way.'

Many factors added to the intensity of the training at the Center. With the high elevation of Colorado Springs, the rigors of altitude training added to the difficulty of workouts for the Cougar swimmers. The center also features a 50-meter long pool, instead of the 25-yard variety found at WSU and most other universities, which adds to the intensity of workouts as well.

'The high altitude and training in a 50-meter pool helped add to our aerobic capacity. It's a whole different type of swimming, a finesse swimming versus power swimming here.

Overall, a theme of hard, serious training defined the team's Olympic Training Center visit.

'It was exhausting, especially being long course (50-meter pool) training, which we weren't used to,' Hubley said. 'This was really the last big, kick of training we'll get before Pac-10's. From now on we start tapering and doing other things, but this was our last really hard training session.'

'Plus being at altitude,' Zavareh added. 'At first it was really hard, but after a few days your body adjusted.'

The Cougar swimmers also received the benefit of being able to train with several Olympians, such as Tom Malchow, the world record holder and 2000 Olympic gold medallist in the 200 butterfly. These Plympians swam with the Cougars and helped provide valuable feedback to the team.

'Training with the Olympians was one of the biggest things for us,' Zavareh said. 'There's no other feeling like being able to swim with athletes like that in the lane next to you, and being able to keep up with them. It makes you feel fast and confident.'

Since the trip fell entirely within the school's winter vacation, the team did not have the added burden of academia to go along with their training.

'It helped being able to go through the daily routine of an Olympian with no outside distractions,' Aceto said.

The swimmers say they enjoyed their time, being able to focus solely on swimming.

'It was great being able to train with no outside distractions,' Hubley said. 'Our team was together the whole time. We ate together, swam together, did everything together. Nothing else to worry about, just focus on swimming.'

Altogether, the Olympic Training Center visit benefited the Cougar swim team from a physical and mental standpoint, as well as helping to improve team chemistry.

'The training center trip was a time to get better,' Zavareh said. 'To improve on those things we identified as needing to work on. It is something most other teams definitely don't get a chance to do.'

'I would love to go back if the Olympic Comittee invites us again,' Aceto said.

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