In the news, I'm constantly reading about how America is falling behind the rest of the world in infrastructure. South Korea has way faster internet, Japan has had faster trains for what seems like forever, and our airports seem completely overwhelmed. But I'm here to write about a far more important type of infrastructure: the way American swimming fans/nerds can track meets as they go and past results.
If you've only followed meets from America, you probably don't know that there's anything better out there- but there is. Two sites absolutely blow away the American swimming fan experience, and they come from humble Switzerland and Sweden.
The first is livetiming. The best I can hope for when following a swim meet in America is that Omega will be involved. Oh sure, now defunct Swimnetwork had some webcasts and we can expect that to continue. But there were some serious problems- often no one calling the action on any race prior to the championship final, and sparse information on splits. I want to know how the whole field is doing! The best you could do is cobble together an Omega scoreboard and click back in forth (hoping they were in sync). It's a mess and it's not good enough.
Enter Livetiming. I encourage you to poke around their English site. Through their site you can actually get streaming video of meets with a scoreboard updating live below you. The main advantage over the Omega site is that Omega doesn't update live, it refreshes itself every few seconds, which doesn't give you the feeling of following a real swimming race. Not only does it update live, but it will even update with the relay swimmers names during a relay, give you both cumulative and subtractive splits for each lane if you drag your mouse over, as well as what placing they were in when they touched. Its all the information you can validly process during a swimming race.
Now honestly, ask yourself. Have the live results and ability to follow a swim meet online changed at all in the last ten years in the United States? It's a crying shame what we put up with when you know what's out there.
The second website that is painfully behind is our USA Swimming times database. I have to use it constantly because it is the best resource for tracking past performances from swimmers I am recruiting and coaching. I am commonly frustrated when I enter a name and get no results because of a simple spelling error. In other cases with a very common name you can get pages upon pages of possible swimmers that you have to scroll through and pick with only club names as a way to discern which "Jacob Johnson" you want. If you want to get a different year, same swimmer, you have to do another search and then click through again. And there is no way to compare times from year to year on the same screen.
Go to www.swimrankings.net, but only if you want to become angry at what the USA Swimming times database should be. The Swiss based site takes results from across Europe and houses them in one central database. The athlete search function is far more user friendly. Simply start typing the last name of a swimmer, and the page updates live with all possible results. This allows you to try several different spellings if you are unsure. The results of the search give you far more information- including gender and year of birth.
The real fun comes when you click through to an athlete's profile. At first, you'll be greeted with all the athlete's best times, when and where they were achieved and even their best relay splits. However, you can also filter it by year without having to do another search. Furthermore, if you click on a specific time you'll often get their splits and reaction time for the event. If you click on a specific event you can get all their times for that event they have ever recorded. From that page, you can even generate a chart so that you can have a visual of their time progression over the last few years. For instance, here is a graph I generated of Fred Bousquet's 50 free's long course over the last 11 years. Pretty cool right?
Well, maybe I'm one of the few people who care, but we deserve better here. Let's shamelessly rip off Sweden and Switzerland so we can have more fun following swimming in the United States.