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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Doctor Is In, Quietly Confident Around The Water

Cecil Gordon M.D. (standing on boat in middle of 3 officials on left) has a quiet, professional demeanor that is well-suited for his role as one of the leading pool and open water swimming officials in the United States.

He was initially drawn to competitive aquatics when his children got involved in swimming. He has traveled the country as a volunteer working his way up from local swim meets to the highest echelon in the sport of American swimming.

In addition to his work on the pool decks and on officials boats at the open water swimming competitions, Dr. Gordon was formerly the chairman for the Diversity Committee and is now the chairman for the Safe Sport Committee at USA Swimming, the governing body of swimming in America.

Over the course of his relatively short career, he climbed up the ranks quickly and has been selected to serve as a 3-time starter at the NCAA Swimming Championships, a starter and referee at several USA Swimming national championships, an official at the 2008 USA Swimming Olympic Trials, one of six Chief Judges at the 2012 USA Swimming Olympic Trials, and a FINA open water swimming official.

He was also the first person of color chosen to be the head referee at the USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships.

To be selected to officiate at these competitions where athletes' careers and Olympic berths are on the line is a result of his professionalism and competence and is an honor well-deserved. Open Water Source asked Dr. Gordon about his officiating career:

Open Water Source: When did you first get involved in officiating?
Dr. Gordon: My interest in swimming developed when my children began to compete competitively. I began officiating around 2001 or so. My son, Clifton, is now 19 and completing his freshman year at the University of North Carolina as a member of the swim team. My daughter Cecily also swims and will enter Georgetown University this fall.

Open Water Source: When did you first get interested in open water?
Dr. Gordon: In 2007 at my first meet in Indianapolis. Initially, I went to my first open water competition between pool competitions. The open water competition was held on Sunday, which was the off day between the the Senior Nationals and Junior Nationals that summer. I was looking for something to do and thought I’d give it a try. As a kid growing up in North Carolina, hunting and fishing were always activities I enjoyed with my father and grandfather. So being outside on a lake in a boat was natural for me. I’ve been hooked and have been working as an official in various competitions ever since as frequently as possible.

Open Water Source: Are pool and open water swimming officiating any different?
Dr. Gordon: Staying focused is a part of the challenge and a part of the enjoyment of both open water and pool officiating. The length of the open water races and the amount of time required are certainly different. Fortunately, however, as an official I find that the degree of focus required varies at certain parts of the race. When a pack of swimmers is tightly bunched and contact is inevitable, my focus is at its peak. At other times when the swimmers are spaced neatly and the pace is comfortable, I allow myself to relax somewhat and enjoy the surroundings. As a good official, one never completely loses focus or awareness at any point, whether in the pool or on a lake. But there are times when the intensity does diminish somewhat, both for the athlete and the official.

Open Water Source: Are you looking for anything in particular in open water races?
Dr. Gordon: During open water competitions I’m not necessarily looking for anything. More so, I’m observing to see what is happening around me. Certainly I’m watching the swimmers for any potential violation, such as interference, illegal contact, missing a turn. But I’m also constantly trying to think ahead, anticipating where I will need to position myself to better be able to see what might happen next. Because we are on boats, maneuvering is not as simple and as quick as being on a pool deck. Safety is paramount, too. One has to be aware of the positions of all swimmers when a boat makes a move. Any injury would likely not be a minor one. And, there are other boats on the water, too, which increases the possibility of an accident.

Being aware of the positions of all of the boats and officials on the water is absolutely necessary. It is choreography on water. There has to be a balance so that the entire field is covered by the officials as much as possible at all times. And eyes must be maintained on all swimmers at all times. The swimmers must be accounted for.

Open Water Source: Have you had to make difficult decisions or encountered difficult situations?
Dr. Gordon: There are always difficult decisions to be made for any official. Officiating in swimming requires split-second decisions that can result in an athlete being disqualified from that competition. That is a severe penalty, unlike in most other sports. That decision cannot be taken lightly. If there was one decision that perhaps caused me the most consternation, it was canceling the final day of a fairly large meet because the pool water temperature was simply too high. The pool staff was unable to effectively lower the temperature. Swimmers had come from several surrounding states. They wanted to swim and their coaches wanted them to swim. As Meet Referee I felt it was not safe and decided that the only recourse was to cancel the competition. No one was happy, including my own children.

One particular open water event that I’ll never forget was the Manhattan Challenge Swim in 2009. We started out with four swimmers on a late September afternoon swimming around Manhattan Island. The currents were a challenge, as expected. But I never anticipated the difficulty we would face swimming at night. The lack of visibility, the commuter traffic on the Hudson, the tour vessels…it was unbelievable. The night views of the island were unforgettable for me. But the rest of the experience was very challenging and quite scary.

I cannot leave out my experience at the 2011 Open Water Championships in Fort Lauderdale. On Friday for the 10 km swim, the weather was brutal. There were high winds, tough surf, and a number of swimmers struggling with fatigue and dehydration…it was an official’s nightmare. But on the other hand, it illustrated some of the difficulties we all encounter with the unpredictability of open water conditions. In retrospect, it was an outstanding learning opportunity.

Open Water Source: During an open water swimming event, where do you position yourself?
Dr. Gordon: There is no one place where I position myself during any race. My position constantly varies, depending on the situation. I try to give myself the best vantage point to be able to see all that is going on around me…the swimmers, the boats, the other officials, the safety personnel, etc. I find myself constantly adjusting. Usually, however, I am stationed somewhere near the front of the boat.

Open Water Source: What do you try to do while you are officiating?
Dr. Gordon: My goal is always to have a quiet confidence on deck. In addition to being knowledgeable, looking neat and dressing sharply are especially important to me. I also try to maintain a constant calm demeanor throughout the race. Sometimes that can be hard. I would like to believe that other officials and athletes see me as a person who demonstrates a rather calm personality whenever I’m officiating. To me it’s critical to have sound judgment and good common sense when making a tough decision. I feel it is difficult to achieve that goal when one loses control of his emotions. Becoming frustrated and yelling at others have never worked for me, neither on deck nor in real life.

Open Water Source: Tell us about these recent national championships in Fort Myers.
Dr. Gordon: The 2012 USA Open Water National Championships were extremely gratifying to me. I felt that the event went well and that was what was most important. The swims were great and there were few issues throughout the weekend. Hopefully, everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. My one goal that can never be compromised is that 'all swimmers must return safely'. Thankfully, once again we were able to accomplish that. Everything else is a bonus to me.

Photos of Cecil Gordon in the referee boat at the USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships by Sarah Coward.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda


Friday, 19 September

5:30

PM


Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)


Saturday, 20 September

9:00

AM


Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

10:00

AM


Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming

10:20

AM


Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport

10:30

AM


Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water

10:50

AM


Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming

11:10

AM


Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry

11:30

AM


Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)

12:30

PM


Coffee and Break

1:00

PM


World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]


2:30

PM


Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]

2:50

PM


Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers

3:10

PM


Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]

3:30

PM


Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]

3:50

PM


Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]

5:00

PM


International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]

6:30

PM


International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

6:45

PM


Dinner

7:30

PM


International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer


Sunday, 21 September

9:00

AM


Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

10:00

AM


Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC

10:20

AM


Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]

10:40

AM


Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World

11:00

AM


Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
[film]

11:20

AM


Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming

12:00

PM


Survey distribution and group photo-taking

2:00

PM


Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute






CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."


Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac



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