SI Daily Cover: Waterless World

Bill Huber

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of just about everyone. That includes Olympic-caliber swimmers. With pools closed, where and how do they work out?

For some, it’s a pond.

A group of elite swimmers that usually trained at Indiana University, for instance, swam with the fish, frogs and snapping turtles. As Pat Forde wrote in Wednesday’s Daily Cover:

“I’m scared of few things,” chimes in 2016 gold medalist Cody Miller. “But a snapping turtle? I’m not messing with that.”

On this sun-splashed Saturday in late May, though, there are smiles all around. The pond has warmed to the point that nobody needs a wetsuit anymore. When the temperature was in the 50s, earlier in the spring, these workouts were pure misery—even with the wetsuits.

“The first time we got in, my face hurt,” says Miller. “It was freezing. You dove in and felt stuck.”

Swimply, which is something like an Airbnb from swimming pools, has done a booming business. Endless pools, such as Michael Phelps’ pricy Signature Swim Spa, have become popular, as well.

“The greatest strength of American swimming is our depth—both athletes and coaches,” says Stanford’s women’s coach, Greg Meehan, who’s leading the U.S. 2021 Olympic women’s team. “Even in normal times, many of [our coaches] face challenges: lack of access to long-course, 90-degree water; limited pool availability. ...

“These coaches have instilled creativity and confidence in their athletes. Things don’t always need to be perfect for them to get better or to be successful. It’s my belief that many U.S. athletes have found a way to better themselves through this pandemic. I’m not naive enough to think it’s been easy to get better, but they have … and when they return to ‘normal’ training they are set up for a successful run to Tokyo 2021.”