SwimmeR goes to the Para Games and other Updates – v0.9.0

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There’s a new version of SwimmeR available, v0.9.0. It follows v0.8.0, which I didn’t like and didn’t write about. I’ve made some improvements though and here we are. Rather than just telling you what’s in v0.9.0 I’m going to indulge myself and approach this new version via one of my other (tangentially related) interests and touch on the motivations behind some of the changes.

Panel Shows and Swimmers

I really like are panel shows. We don’t really have them in the US, but they’re common in Britain, and available online. Generally speaking a panel show is a type of television program where a host and a number of panelists undertake a game or conversation in an entertaining fashion. Panelists are usually stand up comedians but sometimes other notables, like athletes, participate as well. Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Adlington was a panelist on 8 Out of Ten Cats (“a show about statistics” as the tag line goes) after the London Games.

Rebecca Adlington joins Comedians Jon Richardson and Romesh Ranganathan

Rebecca Adlington joins Comedians Jon Richardson and Romesh Ranganathan

After the Rio games gold medalist and Paralympian Ellie Simmonds was on as well and demonstrated her skill at a “cereal box game”. When it comes to having swimmers on as guests though no show does better than the Last Leg. They’ve had lots of swimmers. Liz Johnson, Sasha Kindred, Jeanette Chippington, the aforementioned Ellie Simmonds, and plenty more.

Ellie Simmonds on the Last Leg

Ellie Simmonds on the Last Leg

I watch that show all the time and it brings me a lot of joy. Host Adam Hills frequently challenges people to do better, often specifically advocating for improved access for people with disabilities.

So, as you may have guessed from the post title, we here at Swimming + Data Science are attempting to meet Hillsy’s challenge by better addressing para athletics within SwimmeR. As of v0.8.0 SwimmeR now handles para swimming codes (S4, SM10 etc.).


First download the new version from CRAN.


Then load the package and some others that we’ll also need.


flextable_style <- function(x) {
  x %>%
    flextable() %>%
    bold(part = "header") %>% # bolds header
    bg(bg = "#D3D3D3", part = "header") %>%  # puts gray background behind the header row

Para Codes

We can take a look at results from the 2020 Jimi Flowers meet, the most recent meet results hosted on the U.S. Paralympic Swimming results repository.

file <- "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/gpilgrim2670/Pilgrim_Data/master/2020_Jimi_Flowers_Results_PDF.pdf"

df <- swim_parse(read_results(file))

df %>% 
  head(10) %>% 

Note the addition of a new column, Para, containing paralympic classification codes parsed from the result. It’s not a big change, but those codes are literally the only difference between para and non-para swimming results.


We’ve discussed names here before, specifically the “records matching” problem. It’s probably the trickiest problem in dealing with swimming results, which is the aim of SwimmeR. There aren’t any perfect solutions. Still, we’re plugging away. Version 0.9.0 contains our latest contribution to the issue.

Names in swimming results aren’t presented in a consistent format. Sometimes they’re done as Firstname Lastname (Lilly King), sometimes as Lastname, Firstname (King, Lilly). This is simple enough for athletes with only one first or last name, but imagine a swimmer named Kara Lynn Joyce. There’s no way to tell just based on the name itself if she should be Lynn Joyce, Kara or Joyce, Kara Lynn. What this means is that while there’s more information encoded in Lastname, Firstname (because the comma differentiates between Lastname, however long, and Firstname, however long) the default format must be Firstname Lastname. It’s simply not possible to rigorously convert Firstname Lastname to Lastname, Firstname based on the information available.

Enter the name_reorder function. name_reorder works on lists or whole data frames.


Passing a list to name_reorder is simpler and more general than passing a data frame, just outputting a list with the names reordered to “Firstname Lastname”.

name_examples_list <- c("Kara Lynn Joyce", "Joyce, Kara Lynn", "de Bruijn, Inge", "Inge de Bruijn", NA)

name_examples_list %>% 
## [1] "Kara Lynn Joyce" "Kara Lynn Joyce" "Inge de Bruijn"  "Inge de Bruijn" 
## [5] NA

Since columns in a data frame are really just lists this also works with dplyr functions like mutate.

name_examples_dplyr <- data.frame(Athlete = c("Kara Lynn Joyce", "Joyce, Kara Lynn", "de Bruijn, Inge", "Inge de Bruijn", NA))

name_examples_dplyr %>%
  mutate(Name = name_reorder(Athlete)) %>% 

Data Frames

In contrast to usage with lists using name_reorder with entire data frames has a very SwimmeR-centric flavor. When given a data frame name_reoder converts all names, in a column called “Name” (to match the output of swim_parse) to Firstname Lastname format. By default the output is a data frame with one extra column, called Name_Reorder.

name_examples_df <- data.frame(Name = c("Kara Lynn Joyce", "Joyce, Kara Lynn", "de Bruijn, Inge", "Inge de Bruijn", NA))

name_examples_df %>%
  name_reorder() %>%
  relocate(Name) %>% # want Name column first for presentation

Setting the optional argument verbose = TRUE will add additional columns First_Name and Last_Name if extracting them is possible. This is perhaps helpful to people like me with an interest in names.

name_examples_df %>%
  name_reorder(verbose = TRUE) %>%
  relocate(Name) %>% # want Name column first for presentation

With name_reorder one can insure that a data set comprised of results from several meets will have all names in a consistent format. This is the first step in series of several planned additions to SwimmeR aimed at addressing name-related issues.

Split Distances

We’ve discussed splits before, in conjunction with the splits and splits_length arguments to swim_parse. The idea is simple: setting splits = TRUE causes splits to be collected in columns, with the column names based on splits_length. There’s a problem though when some events in a set of results have different split lengths than others. Consider the 2021 Women’s NCAA DI championships.

file <- "https://s3.amazonaws.com/sidearm.sites/gopack.com/documents/2021/3/20/2021_DI_Women_Final_Results.pdf"

DI_W_2021 <- swim_parse(read_results(file), splits = TRUE, split_length = 50)

Most of the events are split by 50, except for the 50 Yard Freestyle and 200 Yard Freestyle Relay. They’re split by 25, but the column names don’t reflect that.

DI_W_2021 %>% 
  filter(Event %in% c("Women 50 Yard Freestyle", "Women 200 Yard Freestyle Relay", "Women 200 Yard Freestyle")) %>% 
  select(Place, Team, Event, Finals_Time, Split_50:Split_400) %>% 
  group_by(Event) %>% 
  slice_head() %>% 

We can fix this issue with the new correct_split_distance function. It will rename columns in the indicated events based on a new_split_length. I recognized too late that this function should really be called correct_split_length and have ahem corrected this oversight via an alias in the latest dev version of SwimmeR.

DI_W_2021 %>%
    new_split_length = 25,
    events = c("Women 50 Yard Freestyle", "Women 200 Yard Freestyle Relay")
  ) %>%
    Event %in% c(
      "Women 50 Yard Freestyle",
      "Women 200 Yard Freestyle Relay",
      "Women 200 Yard Freestyle"
  ) %>%
  group_by(Event) %>%
  ) %>%
  slice_head() %>%

In Closing

That’s it for this version of SwimmeR. Be on the lookout for some coverage of the 2021 USMS ePostal and a new version of JumpeR in the coming weeks. Until next time, thanks for joining us here at Swimming + Data Science!

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