Swimming: Most teams lose sleep over Rio night races but Aussies have game plan

KAZAN, Russia (REUTERS) - As soon as the world championships concluded on Sunday, swimming's top nations were setting their sights on an all together different proposition - how to deal with midnight finishes during the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Next year's Games schedule means some swimming finals take place at night, the result of broadcasters such as NBC seeking a peak audience in the United States.

In Kazan, the finals normally finished at around 7.30pm local time, but Rio finals are slated for a 10pm start.

With media commitments, warm down, drug testing and the transport home, athletes in Rio de Janeiro will not be in bed until the early hours of the morning.

Of the top nations Reuters spoke to in Kazan, only Swimming Australia, who had originally opposed the decision, had seemingly cemented a plan to deal with late evening finals.

They will hold a week-long, pre-Rio training camp later this year, with a two-day Grand Prix meet in between.

The idea is to replicate what the athletes will experience in Rio. The swim meet will finish at midnight on both days, a Swimming Australia spokesman said, with athletes going through recovery, media and drug testing procedures as they would in Brazil.

"As athletes and staff, we have to familiarise ourselves with what it means for us all to stay in those time frames," Jacco Verhaeren, Swimming Australia's head coach, told Reuters.

"We want to experience it. We can talk about it forever but I really feel like they should live it once and get a feel for it.

"There's no way we can copy the pressure and environment of an Olympics. But we want to get a clear picture of these times and be the best prepared team - and this is part of that."

Australia's stance was in stark contrast to rival nations, with British Swimming remaining coy on the issue. "We have planned for it but we don't want to reveal our strategy," said Bill Furniss, the British head coach.

"We'll handle the late night finals. We didn't complain and it is what it is.

"They have given us a unique set of circumstances. Our target is to handle it better than other teams.

"Make no mistake, this isn't the Olympics. Expect it to be 10-15 per cent harder, which means we have to be more capable."

To keep sleep intact during competition, some nations are likely to accommodate swimmers on higher floors in the carnival city to avoid any noise distractions.

"We'll start making adjustments in our training camps leading into Rio with our training times," Frank Busch, USA Swimming's head coach, said in a statement. "There is a possibility that swimmers will be located away from the other athletes in the village."

In January, German and Swedish teams travelled to Rio to assess conditions, while the Danish Swimming Federation admitted it had yet to decide on how to deal with scheduling changes.

"It's a challenge that the times have been moved," said Lars Bach, Denmark's high performance manager. "It just depends whether we should shift the training times or stay calm and continue how we are used to getting success."

Adjusting body clocks was less of a concern for the Japan Swimming Federation, which will raise the issue of practice times in the week leading up to competition with world swimming body Fina and the International Olympic Committee. "We would like to ask Fina or the IOC if we are able to swim (at night) before the swimming starts," said Tatsuo Ogura, the federation's spokesman.

He smiled when asked if May's Japan Open might be held at night. "I don't think so...because of television rights," he said.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, medal races were switched to the morning to coincide with prime-time viewing in the US despite swimmers' complaints.

Seven years on, the general consensus from swimmers in Kazan was that start times simply have to be accepted.

Bruno Fratus, Brazil's hope for sprint freestyle success, said: "It is going to be midnight for everyone. You've got time to prepare and anyone who is saying otherwise is just making excuses."