As a Scotsman and a breaststroker I was always going to be most excited about the men’s 200 breaststroke last night and, despite Michael Jamieson being touched out by Daniel Gyurta for gold, I was not disappointed.
Gyuarta’s performance was incredible. He went out after it and held on well, normally (like Jamieson) more of a back end swimmer. That it took a world record to beat Jamieson says everything about his performance. He appeared confident at all stages and really seemed to enjoy the environment and atmosphere.
Perhaps this explains why Jamieson is currently only one of few Team GB swimmers to do personal bests at the London Olympics. The atmosphere is intense, incredible for spectators but is it really helping the swimmers?
Research by Desmond McEwan, Kathleen Martin Ginis and Stephen Bray, conducted in the NHL, suggested that in higher stakes situations home advantage can turn to disadvantage.
It may be misinterpretation on my part, but the words and actions of many of our swimmers seem to be in conflict. The words thank the public for their support, say how helpful it is and how enjoyable it is, but when you look into their eyes, when you see them come out and when you see some of the performances – either a little timid or falling away towards the end of the race (possibly a sign of swimming tense) you have to wonder. You can’t fault anyone for their effort. It’s the Olympics after all, but somewhere, somehow, it’s just a little flat and that’s a sign of nerves – of being very aware of the expectations and consequences of their swims.