No matter which diver or what country they’re from, the ritual has been the same at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center in Rio: A twisting, turning plunge into the (briefly green) pool, followed by a rinse in the shower, then a soak in the hot tub. Sometimes, the tub comes before the shower. But no diver skips them both. Why?
It’s less about keeping clean than about keeping their muscles warm. Immersion in the hot tub can keep the body’s core temperature at a decent level, and that’s important in a sport where you’re plunging into water that’s 79 degrees F (according to swimming federation standards), even if it’s just for a short period of time. Divers are especially susceptible to cramping because they’re pulling their bodies into tight tucks and pikes and pointing those toes, all of which can strain muscles and lead to spasms.
The showers were once the only way to warm up, but the hot tubs gradually gained popularity and have become standard on competition pool decks in recent decades.