As I was saying .......

Since I had nothing particular to say for this issue, I just decided to let
my mind (and my mouth) ramble on. Who knows, it might prove valuable ...

First off (well there shouldn't be a first off as this is supposed to be a
disorganised and disjointed rambling), (and so we will make this second off),
second off, did you notice how many seconds off all of of you Masters are
shaving your times by ? Only a macho-man would mention shaving I know,
but to-date FINA has not disallowed shaving for women masters, so I 'm Ok.

In fact, FINA does not much disallowing, it tends to do more and more allowing.
Think back how the breastroke rule have evolved over the years. From a strict
surface-only stroke (back in May 57), the head was allowed back under water
after the start and turns, then on every stroke, undulating fly kicks became
acceptable, and later uneven touches. The breastroke's not the same anymore !

Any wonder the times are so fast now ! From 1965 on, freestyle turns could be
done with the feet only. 1988 saw some underwater backstroke going on (later
restricted to 15 meters), and in 1993 we saw the new backstroke turn which
was a belly-on turn as the old turn went belly-up.

Masters soon found ways to cope with the times. In 1986, the "Japanese" relays
were introduced. Earlier, the age of a relay was the age of its youngest
swimmer, and relays were 25+, 35+, 45 + etc ....

They became sum-of-the-ages relays, and became 100+, 120+, 160+ etc ...
This allowed smaller clubs to field relays they couln't possibly field under
the previous rules.

In 1994, FINA adopted a new age determination rule. Date-of-birth became
Year-of-birth, that is everyone swam under the age they would have had as at
Dec 31 of that year. This can be stated as saying that everyone ages up as
of Jan 1.

This rule passed roughly 40-20 in Montreal under the 1-country 1-vote system.
On the whole, Europe was for it, North America and others against. On average
this system made everyone 6 months younger, allowing for more records set.
(that is, records were set roughly 6 months earlier than they would have
been set).

Fairness ? Some people may complain that if they were born, say in March,
people born in November - of the same year - were already competing with
them. True. It can be stated that it is all a matter of convention; once you
are in the new system, you do stay exactly 5 years in that age group, and
so does everybody. The difference between a born-in-January master swimming
against a born-in-December master is no worse than the previous system where
a 34 yr 11 month master was swimming against a 34 yr 1 month master.

So convention and mind set may affect the argumentation as to for or against.

This change has quickly become the norm in Canada now, but Ontario has voiced
strong objections to the move. In effect Ontario is reporting its Top twenty
in Ontario under the old way, and then reports again for national purposes
under the new way. What magnificent system to make my life interesting !

Not to mention efficient.

I do like the new rule, because a consequence is to make seasons running from
Jan-to-Dec now, instead of the previous Sept-to-Aug. As a further consequence,
people now are fully in one age group the whole season. (previously, most
of us would - every 5 years - straddle two age groups).

Let's change the subject for a minute and let's talk about Alfred Marshall for
a while. Alfred who ? Is he a 400 IM'er or a flyer ? 20-24 or 85-89 ?

Well I am afraid Alfred Marshall may have passed away today, and I do not
know about his swimming abilities. He was an early-twentieth century economist
from England who stated once (he may have repeated it a few times for all
I know): "One does not know what one is talking about if we cannot measure it",
or words to that effect. Chris Nicol (full-time economist and part-time master
swimmer & record-holder - see last issue) will correct me if need be.

This must have made a strong impression on me. Not that it turned me into an
economist. But it has stirred me enough to introduce various twisted measures
of Canadian master swimming, that of course I am going to dwelve on for a
paragraph or two. All in the name of knowing by measuring.

[Alfred Marshall-haters, please skip two paragraphs].

First off (well yes, Second off has been covered already), the national
records get to have that mysterious % or value rating, where each swim is
annotated with a value ranging from apparently 25 or so (for the 90+ age group)
to 100+ (for those rare gifted people like Lynn Marshall, Karen Helmstadt,
Steven Gombai, Graham Welbourn, Jeff Welechuk and Serge Score).

Much like a decathlon scale it represents the value of a swim. For somebody
50 or younger, 50 is easy, 75 is good, 85 is very good. I mean VERY good.

As the table is not age-scaled, at age 75, 50 is very good. (The age
scaling is still a matter of debate. See for instance the Finnish tables
mentioned in a MSC issue a few years ago).

To go over quickly, the formula is 53" over your time for 100 free, (59" if
you're a female swimmer), where 53" was the world senior record back in
1965 (rounded). So 1'46" free yields 50 points. And to score more than 100,
you must break 53" (two weeks training should be enough).

Each of the 18 events has a similar standard allowing values to be calculated
for all events. Summations can be calculated by age groups, and an overall
total shows for instance that the Canadian master records (relays excluded)
add up to 72 000, and the World to 82 000. It seems that this gap is impossible
to breach, that is, every year, the World seems to pile up a bit more points
than Canada does.

But so what, it's participation that counts !

Alfed Marsahll does not say how to measure participation, so turning to
rankings, each ranking swim can also be valued, and a sum can be calculated
(and is). Last year Canadian short-course swimming measured 440 000 points,
it looks that we are going to be close again this year.

Rankings used to be calculated by positional points: 20 for 1st place,
19 for second, 18 for third .... 1 for 20th. This is still reported, but the
ranking is now by sum of value points. I accept the criticism that it
favors people who swim more events, over those that are very fast but only
do the 50 fly, 50 free, and maybe the 100 free. So an average value is also
reported to reflect on those people.

I suppose giving a high ranking to people who swim many events is reward
enough for those of us that do enter these events. A 58" 100 free swimmer,
may sneer at a 27' 1500 m swimmer. The 58" guy can certainly break 22' for
1500m, if only he would start such a race. Granted that he CAN do it,
he gets 0 points if he sits it out, and gets 77 pts if he does 22'. (Yes,
17 is the standard for 1500, so 17/22 equals 77).

An important detail is that your swim has to rank among the Top 20 to score,
so if you do a 27' 1500 in 20th place, you get the (17/27) 62 points.
You get 0 if you get displaced to 21st. No free lunch ! (Alfred Marshall
did not say that, another economist did. Which ? Actually, all economists
say that). Track & Field fans may say it resembles the decathlon, where
in order to win, you must complete all 10 events and have no weak event;
and Gymnastics fans will remember how things were not too long ago, where
before you could compete in the Gold for a given apparatus, you had to finish
in the top 16 in the General (all 6) event.

This strict requirement has not prevented Lynn Marshall to score an amazing
1700 points out a practical maximum of 1800. That's a 94 average per event.
Some people have had higher averages, but on far fewer events.

There is not theoritical maximum, so 1800 could be broken, but when this
happens, I think I will ... eat a floppy diskette.

On the other hand (said the one-handed ecomnomist), this sytem also allows
calculated club depth. A club needs fast people for sure, but it needs lots
of them too. So it also needs lots more average people, and lots more so-so
people (now I feel right at home; it seems nice to feel needed sometimes).

Furthermore, clubs will add up to provincial scores, where year after year
Ontario finishes ahead of P.E.I.

To finish this topic (I was getting started but you've got to economize on
words), most of the above -and more - can be found in the rankings and records
publications. For you wired-people, look it up on the Internet.

Use the MSC or Ontario pages to link to my site, or go straight to: Comments -favourable or unfavourable - may be left
there. Neutral comments may be left at Alfred Marshall's e-mail address.

                                                    C. Berger
                                                    Natl recorder