SPORT

Therapy Dogs At U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials Are Secret Weapon

Who said sports psychology was too dogmatic?

30/06/2016 12:55 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:56 PM AEST
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Michael yelps.

The lead-up to the Rio Olympics has been a pretty ruff time for everyone, but the U.S. Swim Team has really put some bite into its preparation.

A group of 30 therapy dogs was brought in this week to soothe swimmers' nerves prior to their races at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

Therapy dogs are normally used to cheer up people in hospitals and nursing homes, but these old dogs learned some new tricks this week, pawing the pooldecks to placate the participants in the trials.

Did it work? And bow wow how!

"We've been here for three hours and {the dogs} have been petted, and loved on by a ton of swimmers," said Sandy Ludwig, one of the dog handlers.

"[The swimmers] are down on the floor with them, petting them, it's just a nice diversion from all the stress with the swim trials."

Therapy dogs have been proven to help people deal with fatigue, anxiety and depression. They are even deployed to help grieving people, as was the case recently when golden retrievers were sent to Orlando to help people cope after the shooting.

In actual swimming news, Michael Phelps won the 200m butterfly in what can only be described as a dogged performance. The 31-year-old new dad will now appear at his fifth Olympics -- a record for a male swimmer. Just as impressively, he managed to co-ordinate his swimwear with what may or may not have been his own oversized footwear.

I'm going to RIO!!! So pumped!!! #number5

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on

Phelps has won 18 Olympic gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes. As a comparison, Australia's Ian Thorpe won five golds, three silvers and a bronze.

The U.S. has been the top swimming nation at every summer Olympics since 1988 (East Germany topped the swimming table that year with 28 medals having won NONE at the previous Games...).

With such depth in the pool of U.S. swimming talent, it's always a bit of a dogfight just to make the team. But athletes usually perform at their peak when they're relaxed, so there's doubtless some sound sports psychology underpinning all of this.

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