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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why 31°C FINA? - Part 4

While FINA professional marathon races are usually limited to 80 or fewer athletes, a large majority of amateur swims are flooded with much greater numbers of participants. While FINA-sanctioned races have sufficient boats and safety personnel for each swimmer throughout the course in the post-2010 era, this is not the case with almost every other amateur swim (bar swims where each swimmer is escorted by their own crew).

In a review of the 29 deaths that have occurred since 2010, a majority of victims who ultimately died in the race were first seen or assisted by a fellow swimmer. In other words, the first responder is usually another swimmer. So the question arises, are all swimmers in a given race even aware of this situation? Do they know that there is a greater possibility of them saving a fellow swimmer – at least initially – than the race officials? Are they aware of danger signs in the water, what the risks are, or what to do in an emergency?

USA Swimming, as only one example of the good work done by many national governing bodies, educates its membership in a variety of ways through camps, clinics and coaching education programs. FINA often does the same. To its credit, USA Swimming also established maximum water temperature for open water competitions and mandated stringent safety procedures including greater number of safety vessels and independent monitors. Sometimes, this leads to races being cancelled or modified. Sometimes, races do not even get sanctioned. As a result, the level of safety awareness has increased and the safety net improved.

And none too late.

FINA similarly revised its own policies and rules. Some of the rules were influenced by the recommendations of the Pound Commission that concluded its report in 2011; some were a result of FINA’s own investigations and conclusions. Ten days before the 2012 London Olympics, the FINA Bureau – the ultimate rule-making body in the global institution – passed its own separate set of rules.

USA Swimming New Rules

USA Swimming passed new rules in September 2011 that specifically addressed maximum water temperatures and added consideration for warm air temperatures:

702.2 WATER/AIR TEMPERATURE — The race shall not begin if the following conditions are not satisfied:

.1 The water temperature shall not be less than 16°C (60.8°F).
.2 For races of 5K and above, the water temperature shall not exceed 29.45°C (85°F).
.3 The air temperature and water temperature when added together shall not be less than 30°C (118°F) nor greater than 63°C (177.4°F)


FINA’s New Rules (passed in July 2012)

FINA's new open water safety regulations approved in July included the following:

4.7 Water Temperature (a) The water temperature shall be measured 2 hours before the start of the race and must be a minimum of 16°C and a maximum of 31°C. The water temperature shall be certified by the FINA Safety Delegate and the HMF/OC Safety Officer as measured in the middle of the course, at a depth of 40 centimeters.

(b) The water temperature shall be monitored as provided above at one-hour intervals during the race. If the water temperature drops below 16°C or exceeds 31°C at any one of the measuring intervals, the water temperature shall be measured again in 30 minutes and if that measurement is also below 16°C or exceeds 31°C the race must be stopped.

i The minimum and the maximum temperatures are under a study by the specialized University of Otago (NZL) as requested by FINA, IOC and ITU [International Triathlon Union]; when the results of this study are available, this Regulation will be amended accordingly.

Putting 31°C Into Perspective

To put these temperatures in perspective, imagine a swimming pool at 85°F (29.4°C). Even at 82°F or 83°F, performances start to suffer in a pool. At those temperatures, coaches constantly hear complaints that “the water is too hot” from their swimmers. Coaches use aerators and move workouts to the early morning or evening to avoid pool temperatures that are too warm.

Now imagine doing 100 x 100 on an interval where you get very little rest in a pool where the water is 85°F…on a humid, cloudless day. How tough would that be? Any coach can easily imagine problems with heat stress among his athletes under those conditions.

Now imagine if the temperature of the pool was 87.8°F (31°C)...for a race.

Now add to this increasingly hazardous situation the well-known fact among open water swimmers that the temperature of fresh water always feels cooler than the same temperature of salt water. That is, 80°F in fresh water does not feel like 80°F in salt water. The fresh water feels cooler. Flipped around, the salt water feels WARMER. That is, 80°F in fresh water feels more like 82-83°F in salt water depending on the amount of solar radiation. This is not the opinion solely of this writer, but a well-accepted understanding from experienced open water swimmers.

So essentially that 87.8°F in a fresh water pool feels more like 89-90°F in the ocean, sea or estuary.

Now imagine racing 5,000 meters or 10,000 meters or 25,000 meters in 89-90°F. Pool swimming coaches would not stand for it; parents would complain; and athletes would – out of pure physiologically necessity – purposefully slow down and complain until the coach relented.

This is what is happening in the open water world.

FINA institutionalized rules that include a maximum water temperature of 31°C (87.8°F). But there is a caveat, a very important caveat. In the case of USA Swimming, the maximum water temperature is 29.45° C (85°F). No questions asked. Danger identified. Danger documented. Race stopped. Game over. Swimmers go home.

In contrast under FINA rules, the water temperature is monitored at one-hour intervals during the race. If the water temperature drops below 16°C or exceeds 31°C during one of these one-hour intervals, the race is not stopped. The race continues. The swimmers are still asked to race.

The race officials are instructed by FINA to wait another 30 minutes and then take a second measurement. If that second measurement is below 31°C, the race continues. If the measurement exceeds 31°C then the race is stopped.

Problems

Experienced swimmers know that when the water temperatures rise up to 31°C, then the air temperature tends to be even higher than 31°C. And it is occasionally accompanied by high humidity. As a result, swimmers and coaches around the world do not believe that the new FINA rule is ENHANCING the safety of open water athletes. Not for a second.

Athletes know it. Athletes instinctively understand the tremendous physiological stress placed on their bodies under this scenario. It is like swimming through a furnace. Every breath fills the lungs with warm water, the body cannot perspire and cannot physiologically adapt to the cumulative heat forces on their bodies.

Less than two years after the death of Fran Crippen, why is FINA deciding on a figure that is obviously not helping improve safety?

The Right Answers

To be fair, neither FINA nor the open water swimming community has conducted sufficient research to arrive at the optimal maximum temperature levels. While military agencies around the world have done so, the global aquatic community has not. So decisions go around and around the table and no one knows for sure if 29°C or 30°C or 31°C or 32°C is the right number. There simply is not enough data to properly pinpoint and scientifically institutionalize as the optimal number.

And that is scary.

Under this current scenario where neither FINA nor the global open water swimming community knows the RIGHT number, why does FINA chose a number that is obviously high? Is it not better to be conservative and play it safe – or safer? Why risk – even with remote possibilities – another tragedy?

Every competitive swimmer in the world will explain to any administrator that 31°C is too high. If the athletes believe and know this, why isn’t FINA listening? Its decision and unwillingness to listen to the athletes who are putting themselves at risk is puzzling.

This decision to select 31°C is especially puzzling because few races on the current FINA World Cup and Grand Prix circuits have the possibility to get up at water temperatures this high. Whether a swim is in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Macedonia, or Serbia, the water temperature is traditionally not at this level. The water in Mexico and China has a greater possibility to be warmer, but usually, the water has been significantly cooler than 31°C.

So why choose 31°C?

Is it a magic number? Is it the maximum temperatures that researchers say is safe? Why push athletes to such extremes?

Can FINA provide these answers?

If not, there is no justification to institutionalize a rule that allows world-class athletes to race 5 km, 10 km and 25 km in water temperatures up to (and above) 31°C. Just because there might NOT be a problem is not sufficient justification to select this high number.

Be conservative until there is more data. Play it safe.

If there is no realistic possibility of cancelling any races on the current FINA Grand Prix or World Cup series, there should be no problems modifying this rule.

A modification of the rule should be as easy as the implementation of this rule in the first place.

FINA Taking It To The Edge - Part 1 is here.

FINA Taking It To The Edge - Part 2 is here.

FINA Taking It To The Edge - Part 3 is here.

USA Triathlon Fatality Incidents Study is here.

New South Wales Maximum Water Temperature Rules are here.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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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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