What's Up With That? Decoding Olympians' Puzzling Practices

The 2012 Olympic Games are well underway, and those of you who have been watching avidly might have noticed a few things that caused you to go "hmmm."

For example, why do some swimmers wear two caps? Why do divers hop into the hot tub right after they dive? And why are some female beach volleyball players wearing so many clothes?

We've got the answers.

What's with the face paint on U.S. Olympic sprinter DeeDee Trotter?

Trotter, 29, brings a whole new meaning to game face. The Team USA runner paints patriotic designs near her eyes during her competitions in the London 2012 Games, which she says "makes her tougher."

"I keep saying it's like that Mike Tyson-type thing," she told the Associated Press. "You know when he came back with the tat, he was crazy, crazy manic.

"He just got in there and did whatever it took, and that's the attitude I'm trying to bring tomorrow. My glitter face just showed that: war paint time, time to get the grind on."

What's with the mirrored swim goggles?

Not only do these mirrored, metallic goggles look intimidating, they're highly functional. According to one online swim retailer, the metallic lens softens the glare of those bright fluorescent lights indoors. (You'll notice these goggles are especially popular among backstroke swimmers, such as Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin.)

What's with the hot tub after diving?

According to Rutgers University diver David Feigley, that ritual post-dive hot tub session is "not an ergogenic aid."

In other words, it does not necessarily make you a better diver, but simply put, "Divers don't like cold water," he told the Washington Post. Not to mention, that 100-degree water keeps muscles warm, relaxed and ready for the next dive.

What's with the two swim caps?

More is always better, and the mantra holds true for swim caps.

According to Dave Salo, the assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic women's team and head swim coach at the University of Southern California, there are two reasons Olympians double up swim caps.

Not only does that second cap ensure the goggles stay in place, but the combination of the top cap made of latex and the bottom cap made of silicone reduces the swimmer's water resistance. (Did you notice gold medalist Dana Vollmer's swim cap at the bottom of the pool? Luckily, she had two.)

What's with the different-colored volleyball jersey?

On each indoor volleyball squad, the different color jersey designates the libero, the team's defensive specialist.

The libero is allowed to substitute in and out of the game without notifying officials, but is never allowed to play in the front row.

What's with those protrusions on the side of water polo players' caps?

They may look strange, but those things sticking out of water polo players' caps are ear guards, and they're important.

Made of durable plastic with holes to allow sound in, the protectors guard players' ears against injury from the ball or contact with another player.

According to FINA, the international governing body of swimming and other water sports, players' caps "must be fitted with malleable ear protectors," which must match the color of the team's caps. One exception is that the goalkeeper may have red ear protectors.

Quick fact: Water polo players' caps are also called "bonnets."

What's with the women's beach volleyball players being so covered up?

Even though it made its Olympic debut only 16 years ago, beach volleyball is an immensely popular sport. That's it's been attracting some of the biggest crowds in London is understandable, given that female volleyball players wear so little.

But some of the women in this year's games have ditched their standard two-piece swimsuits for fitted long-sleeved shirts and leggings.


It's simple. London gets chilly even in the summer, and the rules have long provided a solution for that. According to the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), players may don tight-fitting warm-up wear in exceptionally cold weather.

One more thing: The rules regarding regulation attire were modified earlier this year to allow for modesty. The FIVB said it would allow female players to wear shorts and sleeved tops "out of respect for the cultural beliefs of some of the countries still in contention to qualify for the games," The Associated Press reported.

What's with that bright body tape?

You may have noticed some athletes – volleyball players, swimmer, divers and others, wearing tape in various bright colors all over their bodies. It looks fun, but what does it do?

The tape – Kinesio Tape – and was developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase in 1979, and is designed to support joints and muscles without restricting movement, a Reuters report said.

According to the product's website, the tape should be used with a special taping technique. There are other similar products on the market, including SpiderTech tape.

So does the product actually work?

The science community finds little evidence of that, but perception may play a big role in its use.

"The fact that athletes think it's going to do them some good can help in a psychological way," Steve Harridge, a professor of human and applied physiology at King's College London, told Reuters.

What's with the purple puff of smoke at shooting matches?

Olympic shooting tests marksmanship and precision.

When airborne clay targets are launched, competitors aim and fire. If their aim is true and the clay target is hit, it erupts into a puff of purple smoke.

That's probably preferable to the way things were done in the early days of the sport, which dates all the way back to the first modern Olympic games in Athens in 1896.

In the 1900 Olympics in Paris, the shooting featured live pigeons as targets.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...