It?s a new year, but before you dive into your 2009 resolutions, take time for one more look back at 2008.

Several big stories dominated the headlines, and perhaps the most exciting was the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Michael Phelps became a household name as he won a record-setting eight Olympic gold medals. Thanks to his historic performance, many aquatics facilities saw a surge in attendance, and a new excitement still surrounds water sports.

Virginia Graeme Baker was another name on the lips of industry professionals. On Dec. 19, 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was signed into law, giving aquatics facility operators one year to install entrapment-proof drain covers and other antientrapment systems. The law was named for former Secretary of State James Baker?s granddaughter, who drowned in a spa entrapment at a family party. It is the first federal law covering aquatics. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was charged with interpreting the specifics of what constitutes compliance, but by the Dec. 19, 2008, deadline, many operators still faced a number of challenges in coming into compliance.

Legislation aside, other challenges surfaced as well in 2008. The global economy took a dive and aquatics was not immune. As the housing industry practically ground to a standstill and credit markets dried up, the residential pool market took a major hit. So did the waterpark resort market. With limited financing available, several projects were placed on hold. By the end of the year, weak consumer confidence, rising unemployment, state and local budget deficits, and other factors began taking a toll on the public pool market as well.

It may have gotten lost amid the economic concerns, but several cryptosporidium outbreaks caused concern again last summer. The most notable outbreaks were in the Dallas metro area; Phoenix; Columbus, Ohio; New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

The health and safety of the pool environment has always been a top priority in the industry, and crypto is just one issue that made headlines in ?08. Several groundbreaking studies were published.

One of the biggest, from a team at the University of Memphis, found that more than half of all black and Hispanic children are ?at-risk? swimmers. The project, commissioned by USA Swimming, included nearly 1,800 kids and validated findings from a 2005 Aquatics International investigation, which found minority children are statistically three times more likely to drown.

Finally, Washington State University created the National Aquatics & Sports Medicine Institute last year to further study the physiological benefits of aquatics. Dr. Bruce Becker was named director of the institute, funded by a $1 million grant from NSPF.

The history books are closed on 2008, and there?s no telling what the future holds. But one thing?s for sure: The aquatics industry is in for 12 more months of excitement.