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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ridiculous And Sad...Wetsuits Considered For Olympic 10K

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Craig Lord of SwimVortex broke the news that FINA is considering use of wetsuits at the 2016 Rio Olympic 10K Marathon Swim (see here).

Lord reported that FINA will consider rules that will allow wetsuits to be worn during the Olympic 10K marathon swim in Copacabana Beach.

Apparently, the reason for this rule change is safety.

FINA, the International Triathlon Union (ITU), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) consider water temperatures less than 18ºC - 20ºC (64.4ºF - 68ºF) to be unsafe. Lord writes, "FINA’s leadership will meet in Budapest on January 30 to consider the new ‘wetsuit’ rules given that water temperatures off the coast of Rio during the Olympic Games are likely to be lower than 18ºC).

Cornel Marculescu, the director of FINA, has informed federations that, in the wake of the research, 'the only solution is to allow the use of wetsuits'

In our opinion, the recommendations of the ITU and FINA's appointed experts are off-base for the following reasons:

1. 100% of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim finalists will wear tech suits that will almost completely cover their body with the exceptions of their arms.

These tech suits offer a significant level of skin protection and even a level of warmth that is not available if the swimmers swam in traditional porous swimsuits.

Swimmers can also wear ear plugs for additional level of cold water protection.

2. If FINA would like to make a change, why are they not considering allowing the swimmers to wear two swim caps in the open water competitions like FINA swimmers can wear in pool competitions?

3. While there are a handful of elite marathon swimmers who cannot handle water temperatures under 18ºC, all of these athletes have the opportunity (least we say obligation) to acclimate themselves to the chosen venue. [Note: Poliana Okimoto was the only swimmer who DNF'ed during the 2012 London Olympics in the Serpentine due to cold water temperatures, but she is from Brazil and can very easily train in Copacabana Beach to acclimate herself to possible water temperatures under 18ºC.]

4. Open water swimmers are not triathletes. Open water swimmers - unlike triathletes whose majority of racing is done on a bicycle and with running shoes - are entirely focused on handling the various conditions of open water venues. We understand that 18ºC may be considered cold by triathletes, but 18ºC is - and should not - be considered outside the capabilities of world-class open water swimmers.

5. FINA's currently allowable water temperature ranges are 16ºC - 31ºC. FINA already allows competitions between 16ºC - 31ºC without wetsuits. Why is FINA changing now? Does FINA's decision imply that the previously held FINA races held in water under 20ºC were dangerous and risky?

6. In the event that wetsuits are approved, this changes the nature of open water swimming in profound ways. If 18ºC is considered too cold and potentially dangerous, who makes this determination? Will all future FINA races require wetsuits when the water temperatures are below 20ºC? While the swimming community knows and readily acknowledges that FINA's upper limits of 31ºC is too warm, a vast majority of the swimming community knows that water temperatures in the 18ºC - 20ºC are entirely reasonable. Cool for some, but not dangerous for the elite, world-class, competitive swimmers who are professionals.

7. With few exceptions, the finalists at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim are professional athletes. They compete for money, have sponsorships, and are supported by their national governing bodies and benefit from the guidance of full-time coaches, experienced trainers and sports scientists. Their team of supporters can easily educate the athletes on how best to acclimate and how to swim fast in water temperatures between 18ºC - 20ºC.

Comments are welcomed.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association


  1. I cannot believe that FINA are even thinking about this. They should never have been allowed to wear the high tech suits either because they give warmth buoyancy and assist as mentioned here. All of the major marathon races and endurance swims around the world do not allow any aids like these costumes. In my opinion this decision if made will not make one iota of difference to the safety of the elite athletes in this even. Perhaps they should put more effort into other safety issues.

  2. The only safety information we have so far for FINA competitions is that Fran Crippen DIED in a FINA competition in HOT water. Wet suits add to such a risk of over-heating.
    Consequently, this ruling could be considered as an Anti-Safety move !
    If it's not safe to swim in excrement, then the answer is not to wear protective clothing. Just stay out of it and don't risk litigation for your stupidity in arranging such a dangerous event.
    However, wet-suit manufacturers make big profits and will be very supportive of such a move by a group (FINA) that just loves having extra financial support.

  3. I am sure there is a wetsuit company who has FINA's ear. This is ludicrous.

  4. FINA rules do allow OWS competitors to wear 2 caps. Like all other permitted swim gear (until perhaps now), they may not be neoprene.


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