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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why The NCAA Should Add Open Water Swimming

March Madness is coming to an end with the Final Four taking place in Atlanta this weekend. The collegiate experience and nature of college students at NCAA Championships is always exciting and compellingly competitive.

The NCAA oversees dozens of sports and has held an NCAA Men's Swimming Championships in three divisions (Division I, Division II, and Division III) since 1924 and a women's championships since 1982. The championships includes 21 events include 5 relays and 3 diving events.

It is acknowledged as one of the world's greatest aquatic competitions with a rich history of showcasing world champions, world record holders, Olympians and Olympic champions from dozens of countries.

And we very strongly believe there are many reasons why open water swimming events should be added to the schedule as soon as possible.

1. The 10 km marathon swim is an Olympic sport (held in a rowing basin at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in a lake at the 2012 London Olympics, and to be held in a beach at the 2016 Rio Olympics).

2. There are many more open water swimmers than divers and certainly more around the world. [Note: the international influx of non-Americans at the NCAA Championships cannot be denied with a large number of finalists and qualifiers who are citizens of countries other than the USA).

4. There are many more open water swimming events in the United States than diving competitions in the United States and around the world.

5. The sport of open water swimming is exploding at all levels.

6. The sport of open water swimming has been successfully incorporated in the FINA World Swimming Championships with 5 km, 5 km Team Pursuit, 10 km, and 25 km races being conducted.

7. The sport of open water swimming has been successfully incorporated in the World University Games schedule by FISU ( Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire) with a 10 km race.

8. The addition of open water events can help showcase the host city in myriad ways. Think of a coastal race at a city along the Eastern Seaboard or West Coast. Think of a lake swim throughout the Midwest. Think of a river swim in the Rocky Mountain region.

9. The athletes are world-class. Every single one of the Olympic medalists and world champions in open water swimming over the past decade have been personable, accomplished student-athletes, from Ous Mellouli (University of Southern California) to Ashley Twichell (Duke University), from Andrew Gemmell (University of Georgia) to Haley Anderson (University of Southern California), from Alex Meyer (Harvard University) to Martina Grimaldi.

10. NCAA student-athletes who are also Olympians represent the world, from Mazen Aziz Metwaly (Southern Illinois University) to Csaba Gerscak (University of Florida).

11. Excitement is the name of the game at the NCAA men's and women's championships. Open water swimming competitions certainly follow that formula with most races between 5 km and 10 km coming down to the final few strokes in addition to the brutal physicality of aggressive swimmers going around turn buoys, into feeding stations and barreling towards the finish. Capturing these mano-a-mano battles and photo-finishes by aerial footage and close-up cameras will provide outstanding footage for print magazines, online properties and television.

12. The cost of holding these open water swimming championship events is absurdly low relative to every other sport governed by the NCAA. The cost of holding an event in a lake, river or ocean is limited to a city permit, lifeguards, a feeding station, escort boats, media access, and a start/finish pontoon. 13. The know-how how to conduct an open water swimming championship event is available in all 50 states throughout the United States.

14. Like the diving events and relays, the addition of open water swimming events can shape different strategies and recruiting needs for top teams that want to remain on top. 15. An additional long-distance freestyle event that is filled with scholarship athletes will help develop (regain?) the long-distance freestyle swimming excellence of the United States.

Now is the time. Plan for success and prepare for the future of open water swimming events at the NCAA Men's and Women's Swimming Championships.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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