Former national level swimmer, Olivier Poirier-Leroy,  wrote a really cool post for SwimSwam about how it was like to swim in the 90s! Read the facts and find out if they applied to you back in the day!


“When I was your age we had to walk to practice. Ten miles, in the snow, uphill both ways. And we also had to do 12,000 meters a session, not like how these young punks are doing today, with their race pace and their space science! Grumble, grumble, grumble.”

With each new generation of up-and-coming swimmers is another fading from view, rhapsodizing about years gone by, about how much more difficult things were, but simultaneously how much better it was (“it was just a simpler time, man!”).

While keeping an eye on the “back in my day” count – I’ll keep it to single digits – here are ten signs that you swam in the 1990’s–

1. Live results? Online? What kind of voodoo magic is that?

If you wanted to find out what a competitor did across the state in relatively real time, you had to have a friend in attendance who would call you on a Zach Morris-edition (see: Saved by the Bell if you don’t understand the reference) Motorola brick phone. Now results are usually posted online for the swim community to see before the swimmer has a chance to look up at the clock herself.

2. No swimming news.

Back then I got my swimming news and results via two swimming magazines. Because of the time to print and shipping they’d typically show up months after the competitions they covered were raced. End of season issues were particularly grating in hindsight; often the championship issue arrived well into the beginning of the new season.

3. You didn’t make a pump up playlist, you made a pump up mixtape.

A lot of thought goes into a proper sequence of songs when creating a pump up list. What you are going to listen to in the car on the way to the pool. Your stretching tunes. That one track you are gonna melt your face with in the ready room.

Back in my day (sorry!) there was an additional layer of care when deciding a mix tape, because you couldn’t reorder them when you were done without having to go back and re-record over everything. Thankfully towards the end of the decade mix tapes gave way to mix CD’s.

(On a side note, even if you only once spent half the day with your finger on the record button on your boombox, waiting for your favorite song to come on the radio, and then missed it because you were in the bathroom – then you know the struggle.)

4. The music during warm-up at meets was epic. (Mostly.)

Instead of Ke$ha, The 1975, and whatever other bang-a-boom you crazy kids are listening to nowadays we had Metallica, New Kids On the Block, and Guns n’ effin’ Roses blasting during warm-up at competitions! To this day every time I hear “Welcome to the Jungle” my heart rate picks up a little bit and my instinct is to hunt for a lane that isn’t overcrowded.

5. Once you’d graduated to compact discs, you’d lug around a leather-bound case containing your favorite 87 CD’s.

It’s hard to imagine now, but in the 90’s, if you wanted to listen to two songs from different artists, you’d have to stop playback, switch discs, and pray that it wasn’t too scratched to play without skipping and hope to the Holy of Holies that the 1 bar left on the battery indicator for your Sony Discman would be enough to listen to your favorite song twice. Oh and forget about putting that thing in your pocket, and like, walking around. Anti-skip was just a big of a myth as anti-fog goggles.

6. You watched your races on your parents old beta-max.

The video was shaky, the screams of nearby parents drowned out just about everything else (though I guess now we just have them screaming hysterically in HD instead), and you had to adjust the tracking! Oh, the tracking.

7. You wore tearaways to practice and swim meets.

Even though you knew they would get ripped off at least a dozen times by friends and teammates over the course of the weekend, and the time it took to put them back together far outweighed the time you saved by ripping them yourself, they still looked rad….right?

8. You hung out with the Tanners and Winslows on Friday nights.

On Friday night, after a long week of training and school, you’d come home after your PM practice, pour yourself a popcorn-bowl sized portion of pasta and watch Full HousePerfect StrangersStep by Step or my personal favorite, Family Matters.

Not to be outdone, post-Saturday mornings were ripe for more television watching as well. Who could possibly forget Hammerman, MC Hammer’s short-lived foray into cartoon television? I know I sure did!

9. You didn’t have a blog or Facebook page, you had a Geocities site!

When the internet was an infantile set of connecting tubes there was no social media sites to post pictures of our food, and no blog platforms for us to leave racy and anonymous comments on.

Instead, if we were mildly computer savvy we had our own Geocities site. Strewn with ads, our Geocities site usually had a couple pictures of our favorite swimmers (Tom Dolan, Summer Sanders, Kieren Perkins, Krisztina Egerszegi and Curtis Myden were popular choices) and links to the couple of swimming websites online.

10. Briefs!

Swimming fashion has changed a little since the 1990’s as well. We went from wearing almost nothing (the prototypical Speedo brief), to Australia’s Ian Thorpe in the late 1990’s wearing a wetsuit to the pool. Things would bounce back after the rubber suit escapades of 2008-2009 and settle on the modest length of a jammer, but long dead are the days of seeing the top swimmers in the world all rocking out Speedos.

I know there are some other ways that you know you swam in the 1990’s. Let’s hear them in the comments below!

Photo: Mike Lewis/Ola Vista Photography
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