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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

FINA Taking It To The Edge - Part 2

This article is a continuation of the series about FINA's new minimum and maximum water temperature rules (read here).

In discussions with FINA's Medical Delegate at the 2011 FINA World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, the doctor was quick to point out that the real medical threat to the swimmers in the 25 km was not significant despite temperatures that exceeded 31°C in the water and well above that for the air temperature during a hot, humid day.

"There is more a risk of heat stress in the 10 km when the athletes are swimming faster than in the 25 km," he stated emphatically.

Based on his decision with the concurrence of the FINA Safety Delegate, the 25 km race at the 2011 World Championships continued to its conclusion. Several athletes dropped out and one had to be saved, but the FINA Medical Delegate pointed out that because the best athletes completed the race, there was no reason to stop the race.

In reading FINA's internal post-race report, there was little mention of physiological threats to the athletes' safety. If you never witnessed the race in Shanghai, you would never know that more than a dozen athletes either voluntarily quit the race, never started or had to be removed for their own safety. It was as if the risks never occurred. If you did witness the race, you could never forget the horrendous conditions that teenagers and young adults were asked to race in...while FINA officials were afforded an air-conditioned tent with food and drink near the finish line.

But this situation is, shockingly, not an exception.

During the last four FINA World Swimming Championships, there have been serious threats to athletes' safety...that were never reported by FINA.

Why is FINA not addressing these issues? Why are these incidents not documented by FINA? Are coaches consulted with? Are the opinions of athletes considered?

In 2005 at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Montreal, an American athlete started to have problems before halfway and then significantly slowed down with a kick during the second half of the 25 km race. A coach had been watching the struggling athlete as a precaution as he walked alongside the Olympic rowing basin course near the athlete. When it became clear the athlete was in distress and could not go further, he ran into the water to help the athlete to shore. An ambulance was called and the American doctor went with the athlete to the hospital.

In 2007 at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, a sudden squall hit the 25 km race. Sheets of rain, severe winds and tremendous surface chop created serious issues not only for the athletes who were spread all over the 5 km loop course, but also for the coaches and officials who were on 2 floating barges along the course. Tents, flags and the finish structure onshore were torn apart and flew horizontally with the winds. Turn buoys were ripped from their anchors and it was an emergency that required quick decision-making. Among the first people off the course were the timing officials. "Forget the equipment, we have to get off this [finish structure]," were among the statements made. If it were not for the quick and professional work of the Australian lifeguards who zipped around the course saving coaches, officials and swimmers in their inflatable rafts, it would have been a disaster making the news.

That day, the Australian lifeguards proved why there are such a valuable resource. They repeatedly went through the squall to make saves as the race was rightly and immediately halted.

But FINA executives back at the pool complex were upset that there were not first consulted regarding the unplanned stoppage of the race. It took hours for the FINA officials who were present during the squall to explain and justify themselves to the FINA executives who were not present. Why was the professionalism of the open water swimming experts during the potential disaster at the site questioned - at all - by FINA executives who were in an indoor stadium far away?

In 2009 at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Rome, a FINA referee had noticed that an Australian swimmer was struggling during the 25 km race. He asked that his boat be moved closer to the athlete despite criticism that his move put the official boat "out of position". He had observed the athlete for some time and he was worried. Then she started to go under. Acting quickly, he literally saved her by grabbing her hair as her limp body was raised to the surface and brought onboard.

Another disaster averted. Despite no official record of his heroic action by FINA, the official knew he had done the right thing. "Our first priority out there is the safety of the athletes, especially since it was so rough out there."

In 2011 at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, the 25 km race was allowed to continue to its completion despite water and air temperatures that exceeded 31°C. A German athlete was involuntarily pulled to safety while several other athletes either did not start because of the unsafe conditions or voluntarily pulled out - including the 2009 men's world 25 km champion, the 2010 men's world 25 km champion, and the 2010 women's world 25 km champion.

But what did FINA's post-race report state? It made little mention of the dangerous situation but did include disparaging hints about individuals who complained about the situation.

Is this what the athletes deserve? If your son or daughter were competing, would you be satisfied with the current situation and new rules? Is this the leadership that athletes and coaches should expect from the world's governing body in aquatics?

We think not.

FINA can and should do better.

FINA Reaches The Height Of Ignorance - Part 1 is here.

FINA Reaches The Height Of Ignorance - Part 3 is here.

Why 31°C FINA? - Part 4 is here

USA Triathlon Fatality Incidents Study is here.

New South Wales Maximum Water Temperature Rules are here.

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.

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."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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