Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gotta Love the Dead Heat

Thank God for touchpad timing!  Place judges suck!
A couple of weekends ago, our summer league bought a wireless stopwatch timing system, and our head official said he is open to the idea of the league no longer using place judges. Yes, our summer league is still in the 70’s in many ways.  We still used place judges, we still use pink and blue cards in the bullpen for all ages and we still have the 8 hour session limit instead of the much more family friendly four hours we all know and love today.

“Well, what should we do with place judges?” he asked, expecting a little discussion.

“Hang the SOB’s!” I yelled.

The crowd of coaches at the meeting cheered in response.  “Let’s get ‘em!”  and we mobbed over to the volunteer tent and started to throw rocks at them and spit and call them names.

Well, it only kind of went like that…  I really did yell “hang ‘em!” but I think only one other person thought it was funny.  Come to think of it, hardly anyone in the summer league thinks I am funny.  What do they know, eh?  One of the coaches actually picked up a rock to throw at me.  But then a miracle happened:  as a group we actually decided to do away with place judging.  Yay!

The issue with place judges is that they seem to make it much more difficult to get the results posted correctly and without delay because they were wrong more often than they were right and it took several parent volunteers to sort out the mess every time there was a stopwatch malfunction.  It was like we had found the best possible way on earth to get parents to argue with officials.  They just weren’t worth the effort.  No one wanted the job.  Maybe they were all intentionally bad at writing down place finishers in order as some sort of passive-aggressive tactic that would keep them from ever being asked to do that job again.  Who knows?  They just made a lot of really obvious bad calls.  The timing system was a gift from God.

I love seeing people tie in swim meets.  Touchpad timing puts the sport of swimming in a rare position in that we can accept the dead heat as a true tie.  In the Olympics I know that they used to go out to the 1000th of a second to determine the winner back in the day, but now they actually accept that a tie to the hundredth of a second is a real-deal tie.  Americans have tied for Olympic Gold medals twice, once was the first official swimming tie in Olympic history when Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer hit the wall together for the 100 free to start the games in Los Angeles in 1984. The other was when Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin shared the 50 to end the games in Sydney in 2000. I will never forget watching either of those.  The ladies in ‘84 are actually my first Olympic swimming memory.

These girls really knew how to get the home meet party started.  Thank you ladies!

When I see things like the Swiss 4-way tie in the 50 fly that happened last week I have to wonder how it would have been handled with no touchpad timing.  Who would summer league place judges have picked to win this one?  How crazy would it have been if that had happened in the Olympics?  Four golds?  Would they ever do that?

My favorite story of the tie actually came from a swim-off at the Western Zone meet in Clovis when I was 15 years old.  Piper Yuknis from Team Alaska tied for 8th in the prelim of the 15-18 girls 100 back with someone from Cali.  They decided to swim it off to see who made the A final, so all of the Alaskan team stayed to support our girl.  We all thought it was pretty cool when they tied again.  The coaches got together and decided to give the girls twenty minutes to recover and then swim it off again.

I remember that we all wanted to get back to the hotel to eat and rest for finals, so when the girls actually tied again, it wasn’t so funny any more!  To make it worse, the coaches still wouldn’t just flip a coin.  We stayed and did another swim-off twenty minutes later!  Three ties in a row for these two girls!  So finally, Piper wins the next swim-off.  She came back to the group with a smile on her face until someone said, “Yay!  Now you get to do it again in finals!”

Ugh.  To make it worse, on top of the five times she swam the 100 back that day between prelims, multiple swim-offs and finals… I am pretty sure she swam it on the medley relay that day as well.  She was about five seconds slower in the final, but hey... she was guaranteed 8th place, right?  That poor girl who lost and got stuck in the B final probably ended up sixteenth.  I don't know.  I sure as hell wasn't gonna stick around to watch.


  1. Btw one of those Swiss swimmers that tied in the four way race is coming to swim for me next year- Nico Van Duijn. He's had some crazy great experiences these past 12 months. He should probably start a blog. He was also training with Touretski when Ian Thorpe made his comeback so Ian started showing up and whupping him in practice.

  2. I live in the Los Angeles area. At my kids high school league final my daughter was the clear winner in the 100 breast against a Carson girl, but the race was called a tie. My son had the faster watch time against a Carson boy, but the win was given to Carson.

    Teammates parents were standing at the finish and said that my daughter DEFINITELY won and that the Carson boy did out touch my son.

    The following season at a duel meet, the official, once again, called in favor of the same Carson girl (100 breast).

    Thank goodness the LA City CIF meets were going to have touchpads! There were three heats of the 100 breast for the semi-finals. The top 12 swimmers advanced to the finals. My husband took photos of the electronic scoreboard following each heat (who does that?). Carson girl swam in heat 2, my daughter swam in heat 3. My daughter had the 12th fastest time.

    Next event, boys 100 breast, is started. Announcer calls the Carson coach to the admin table - my heart stopped.

    The results were posted and my daughter was 13th. My husband was sure she was 12th. We went home and looked at the photos and sure enough the Carson girls time was changed by over three seconds. This time change kept her in the 4th position in her heat but guaranteed her a place in the finals, knocking out my daughter. (Out of 24 swimmers, only the Carson girls time was altered).

    Southern California Swimming computer personnel said there was a pad malfunction. How did you get a split? The malfunction was on the final touch. Ok, it worked heat 1, the first 50 of heat 2, malfunctioned, worked heat 3 at the 50 and final and worked the remainder of the meet?

    Because my daughter was in heat 3, I had photos of the start, middle, and finish. There were no additional timers as required if a pad malfunctioned.

    There was no pad malfunction! Nobody would help us (CIF, LAUSD, Southern California Swimming). There were even 2 empty lanes for consolations and finals. The attitude of CIF (found out they are LAUSD employees) was that since my daughter was swimming other events at finals this event shouldn't matter. IT MATTERED TO HER.

    Later I found out that this Carson girl's club coach is a swim official.

    I've witnessed cheating at all levels regardless of the timing system used. As long as there is a human factor involved, making the calls or operating the systems, there's no guarantee that the victory will go to the proper athlete.