What to do if your goggles fall off during a race

Tully Kearney British Swimming

Tully Kearney's winning performance in Sheffield at the weekend was a welcome reminder for swimmers that losing your goggles mid-race doesn't mean disaster.

Kearney's goggles fell off during her Women's MC 200m Freestyle race at the British Para-swimming International Meet, but that didn't stop her taking gold in a new GB best time of 2:44.73.

While she may have got out of the water with two very red eyes, she was rewarded for not panicking and continuing with her race plan.

"I wasn’t sure what to do when my goggles fell off, but I just pushed on and was happy with how it turned out," said Kearney.

"It was hard to see so I wanted to get my finish right as I didn’t know where the wall was!"

Many coaches encourage swimmers to try training without goggles, to help prepare them should a similar situation arise mid-race.

Michael Phelps famously won gold in the 200m butterfly at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games despite his goggles filling with water.

Although they didn't fall off, Phelps had no visibility for the final 50m and couldn't see the wall, yet he still managed to win the fourth of eight Beijing gold medals and set a new world record time.

His coach Bob Bowman revealed afterwards that some years earlier he had kept quiet when noticing a young Phelps had forgotten his goggles just before walking out to the blocks at a national junior meet.

"I saw them sitting in our team area, I could have taken the goggles to him but I decided to keep them and see what he could do," Bowman told Reuters.

"So he swam and won the race without the goggles just like he did in the butterfly (at Beijing) when his goggles filled with water."

In preparation for the Olympics, Phelps would count his strokes so he could gauge the distance between walls in case his vision was impaired. Such a strategy paid dividends on that famous day in Beijing.

In the video to the right, Bowman explains the theory behind counting strokes and how it can play a huge part in pre-race preparation.

So the key is not to panic. Remain calm, and remember that losing your goggles does not automatically mean your race plan will unravel.

Be prepared for it, however unlikely it may be, maintain your composure and, most importantly, push on with your natural race.