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FINA to allow wearable SportTech during racing following a rule change

In the sport of swimming, rule changes are rare, but from January 01, 2023 wearable tech will be legal in races. FINA Technical Congress passed a proposed change to rule SW 10.8. 

In the FINA statement, they quoted:

“The use of technology and automated data collection devices is permissible for the sole purpose of collecting data. Automated devices shall not be utilised to transmit data, sounds, or signals to the swimmer and may not be used to aid their speed.”

This means wearable technology to collect data for research, education, and entertainment is legal. However, that data cannot be used in real-time – in swimming races – to aid a swimmer’s speed.

The impact of this rule change is significant on a couple of fronts for coaches and athletes, broadcasters (including spectators), and swimming federations.

Let’s look at what this means for each of them.

Coaches & Athletes

Rich data analysis at your fingertips.

Athlete are usually competing in multiple events that include heats, semi’s and finals. Now coaches will be able to access detailed data from each swim to provide feedback to their athlete.

Sports Broadcasters

Budapest, Hungary – Jul 21, 2017. Inside the Duna Arena, the home of swimming and diving competitions during the FINA Swimming World Championships.

From an entertainment perspective, swimming can start to complete with other events who have had this level of sports analysis included in broadcast for some time.

It is unclear, but likely, that sports broadcasters will be able to access heart rate, stroke rates, speed and many other stats through an integrated feed, much like we have seen through sports like the AFL who then use their half time commentary to analyse performances.

This will enhance fan engagement and allow broadcasters to provide informed commentary. This will be particularly interesting for distance races, but also exciting for sprints. To be able to compare swimmers stats as they race side-by-side will add another level for fans watching.

Sports Federations

Previously, sporting federations would take a team of sports scientists who would sit up in the grandstands with videocameras pointed to each lane to conduct swimming analysis post-race. They would manually record by watching footage back to extract the race data.

Now, with the ability to have swimmers tracked via wearable devices during races, this will be a cost saving both in time and resources.

Data will be available instantly.

Autocoach One, worn under the cap, was first created to solve the problem of communication between swimmer and coach during training.

Developed and tested by Olympic duo, coach, Ian Pope and world champion swimmer, Matt Welsh.

The coach was able to use their smart autocoach stopwatch like a microphone to communicate directly to the swimmer or swimmers wearable the device via a sophisticated bone conduction technology.

The real-time analytics tracking was a bonus for coaches to review speed, splits, stroke rate and more.

Now with a smaller model on the way, this racing rule change opens up a new market of racing.