Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent (USA)

If you spend time with any of the swimmers on the 2018 World Series circuit, surprising facts will emerge.

For example, did you know that…

Michael Andrew recently bought his mother a laser pistol for her birthday?

Why? Because the teenage sprinter's mother, Tina Andrew, 46, recently took up modern pentathlon. The five-sport event, invented by the founder of the modern Olympics (Baron Pierre de Coubertin), combines fencing, 200m swimming, equestrian jumping, running, and pistol shooting. In early March, at her first competition, Michael's mother qualified for the U.S. national championships and from there, the 2018 Masters World Championships in Halle, Germany, where she placed fourth in her division (minus the riding portion, which Masters are allowed to skip).

Michael never thought he'd be shopping for a high-tech competition pistol, but his mother's ambition began a few years ago when a junior pentathlete came to their home in Kansas for swim coaching.

"I remember Googling 'modern pentathlon' because I had no clue," Tina said.

About a year later, "I decided it was time to pursue my own dormant athletic dreams."

Dormant, that is, since 1996 when she dressed as a super hero and competed as "Laser" on the "UK Gladiators" television program.

Soon after, Michael's mother was taking fencing lessons and, in early March, during Michael's Pro Swim Series meet in Atlanta, "on a whim," she asked if she could compete in the southeast regional pentathlon event.

"I would miss Michael's race where he beat Nathan [Adrian] for the first time…and I had not been on a horse yet," she said, but she qualified for U.S. nationals. "I loved everything about MP and was hooked," she said.

Did you know that…

Mitch Larkin of Australia basically races blind? When he takes his glasses off in the final call room, it's the last time he can see everything clearly until after his race.

"I don't wear contacts when I swim," said the 2016 Olympic silver medallist in 200m backstroke. "I'm short-sighted [myopic], so backstroke flags are fine but anything outside of five meters becomes quite blurry. I often touch the wall and don't know my time or position so I sometimes have to ask. Slowly, my eyes are getting a lot worse."

Yet not being able to see has its advantages. "I don't get distracted by the crowd because I can't really see it," he said. "At the 2015 Kazan World Championships was a massive crowd. The 2016 Rio Olympics, same thing. I could just stay focused on what I could see which was what's around me, in the five meter radius.

"It's nice that swimming requires you to focus on your own lane and that no one else is really interfering or interacting with you. Even in relays, because I swim backstroke, I'm first. Then, straightaway, I'll find my glasses, pop them on, and I can see what's going on."

Did you know that…

Chad Le Clos has no problem avoiding his razor before a big race?

"I'm a very simple guy," said the South African swimmer who denied Michael Phelps an Olympic three-peat in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 London Olympics. "Honestly, I don't believe in even shaving and tapering too much. Even for World Champs, I just shave my legs; I don't shave my chest or my underarms. People get weirded out by that. I shave everything for Olympics only.

"For me, it's all just whatever. People overthink things. We all train hard, we all work hard. [When I race], I don't need to think about anything; I just want to be free. Even my coach realised it. He told me last year at one race, 'Just do whatever you think is right,' and I swam 1.5 seconds quicker over 200 meters. At the end of the day, it's just a race. It's a scrap. That's all."

Did you know that…

Alia Atkinson would not miss any of her possessions if the airlines lost her luggage?

"Because anything [valuable] that I have is on me," explained the Jamaican breaststroker who broke her own 50m short-course world record in Budapest on October 6. "My watch is on me. I have a special necklace on me. These are mementos that I carry from home."

The special necklace honours one of her siblings.

"My older brother, Adi, passed away [in a plane crash] in 2009," she said. He was 23 at the time, a commercial pilot and a flight instructor and "one of my mentors. My special necklace is just a little medallion, a little flight of the Phoenix, so I always have that."

Finally, did you know that…

Sarah Sjostrom always travels with a snorkel?

The Swedish sprinter and who holds four long-course world records (two in butterfly, two in freestyle) said that in addition to having a trigger-point ball handy at every meet "because I travel the World Cup without a physio… my most important thing is my snorkel! I take it everywhere, always, so I don't have to think about breathing or the breathing pattern. In fifty percent of my freestyle training, I use my snorkel.

"I don't know if it's unusual; it's my thing. I just like using my snorkel!"