In watching the Olympic diving competition, two out-of-pool things stick out: Why do they all take a shower immediately after and what's up with those shammies they wipe themselves off with?
The answer is actually quite simple. The pool is 79 degrees, and when the divers come out, they are cold. Since there is often a long wait between dives, they shower to keep their muscles warm.
"The showers are very hot, and it keeps your body warm," said Arturo Miranda, a Canadian diver. "You want to be able to keep your body temperature very high, so your muscles are ready to go." ...
That rationale received approval from Bengt Saltin, a professor of human physiology at Copenhagen University who is a leading expert on how muscles work. Muscles should be around 104 degrees to perform at their peak, he said. "Passive heating is one way of having warm muscles when you start your performance," he said.
Like the showers, the shammies serve a practical purpose. Divers' skin must be perfectly dry so they do not lose their grip when they do complicated dives. Kenny Armstrong, a United States diving coach, said that the American Matt Scoggin lost his grip in Barcelona in 1992 while performing a back three-and-a-half somersault and landed on his back in the finals. ...
Divers develop attachments to shammies, Armstrong said.
"They get pretty comfortable with them," he said. "It's their buddy for usually their whole career. I've seen guys where you can look right through them."
U.S. divers David Boudia, left, and Thomas Finchum with their shammies:
Brent Mullins photos. Check out his diving gallery.