Competitive Lifesaving Is a Sport. A Pretty Hard One

The 200-meter super lifesaver race is ... involved
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2022 7:00 AM CDT
Competitive Lifesaving Is a Sport. A Pretty Hard One
A manikin in the water.   (Getty Images / payamona)

The men's world record for the 200-meter freestyle is 1 minute, 42 seconds. But there's a much more complicated 200-meter race that has been done in a best time only slightly longer: 2 minutes, 4 seconds. It's the 200-meter super lifesaver, and it's one of the races that defines the sport (yes, sport) of competitive lifesaving. In a piece for Sports Illustrated, Emma Baccellieri takes a deep, well, dive into the sport, which had 16 medal events at the World Games in July. The 200-meter super lifesaver was one of them. As Baccellieri explains, it begins like a swimming competition would, with a 75-meter freestyle swim done as fast as possible. Then the manikins come into play.

Those are the bright orange dummies in need of rescue. In this particular race there are two: one that needs to be rescued from the bottom of the pool, brought to the surface within the next five meters, and then carried 25 meters; a second that is on the surface but can't be retrieved until the swimmer puts on a set of fins, swims 50 meters, and attaches a rescue tube to it. A final 50-meter swim with the second manikin finishes the race. In 2 minutes, 4 seconds, if you're a world champ. Baccellieri's full piece is worth a read not just for her details, but for the contrasts she draws between the sports it's not grouped with (like swimming, whose stars can be Olympians and highly paid athletes) and those it is (less serious World Games sports like breakdancing, parkour, and tug-of-war). Give it a read here. (More Longform stories.)

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