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Why do Olympic swimmers do that? Explaining some pre-race rituals

Why do swimmers slap themselves before a race? Why do they wear winter coats? Why do they wear headphones? Here are answers to common Olympic questions.

There are some rituals swimmers perform ahead of their competitions at the Olympics that often cause some to ask. "Why do they do that?"

Headphones. Winter coats. Two swim caps. Slapping their chests. Here's an explanation of why swimmers do what they do even before they get into the pool.

Why do swimmers wear heavy coats before a race?

It's for the same reason you warm-up before a workout. Cold muscles are bad when you are about to do something athletic. The coats keep an athlete warm and their muscles loose, writes Temarie Tomley at Swimmer's World.

Why do swimmers put the goggle strap under their cap?

It's mainly to ensure their goggles don't slip or fall off, causing them to fill up with water, according to Tomley. That can be a death knell to a swimmer's chance to win.

Why do swimmers wear two swim caps?

There are two reasons for this. One is to keep the goggles secure. The other is because the caps are generally made of two different materials. The bottom cap sticks better to the head, but can wrinkle. The top cap is smoother, eliminating those wrinkles.

Why do swimmers slap themselves before a race?

It's mainly to help the warmup process, Tomley writes. It can help increase blood flow.

Why do swimmers splash water on themselves before a race?

There are several reasons for this, Tomley writes, and it depends on the swimmer. Some might do it to decrease the shock of diving into the pool water. Some may be trying to use the water to make sure their swimsuit is tight to their skin. And for some, it may just be part of their pre-race routine.

Why do some swimmers have big, circular bruises?

It's called cupping therapy, which involves applying glass or plastic cups to the area of discomfort and either applying heat or suction to create a vacuum. The suction pulls the skin away from the muscle and draws oxygenated blood to the area.

The idea is that it helps to relax muscles and aid in recovery, although not everyone in the medical community is sold on it. But Michael Phelps, the most-decorated Olympian of all-time, used it.

Why do swimmers wear headphones before a race?

It's generally part of a swimmer's pre-race routine to get them focused. Some may choose to listen to music. Others might be trying to drown out the noise of the swimming arena. Since fans are now banned from the Tokyo Olympic venues due to COVID-19, the latter won't be an issue this year.