Canada, Netherlands, Japan, USA Avoid Hot Water

Canada, Netherlands, Japan, USA Avoid Hot Water

Courtesy of Swimming Canada, World University Games, Taipei, Taiwan.

Way back in 2010, less than one year after American Fran Crippen died during an open water race in the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands coach Marcel Wouda pulled his 23-year-old reigning world 25 km champion, Linsy Heister, from the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China.

Wouda said it was medically irresponsible to compete in water that rose above 31°C, especially when combined with sunny skies and high humidity. “After a long discussion with medical staff, we decided to withdraw Linsy. Besides that it’s life threatening, it would take a very long recovery afterwards.

We want our athletes to swim races safely. There are always risks, but this is something we can estimate in advance and therefor we will not start.”

In 2010, Wouda was one of the very few coaches and administrators who was not afraid to speak out and call upon FINA to do the right thing. “You would think that FINA has learned an important lesson.”

“At that race, I was told very specifically by Dr. David Gerrard, the ranking FINA Medical Delegate presiding over the race, that there was little risk and that athletes would be fine,” recalled Steven Munatones. “Dr. Gerrard kept on bringing up cases in which marathon runners competed in even higher temperatures in defense of his position [on marathon swimmers competing in water warmer than 31°C.

I tried to argue with him that runners are in a different element, especially when most of the swimmers in Shanghai were wearing tight, black techsuits, horizontally in the water under cloudless skies and a blazing sun and high humidity.

But he would hear none of this

And neither would FINA despite a large number of swimmers who left the race and went to the hospital.

Any complaints that were expressed were directed to FINA’s Executive Director Cornel Marculescu. “Yes, Cornel did not want to hear any complaints. He soon demanded that anyone who complained publicly would be sent to FINA’s Disciplinary Panel and be asked to resign,” recalled Munatones.

Fortunately, governing bodies and coaches are no longer willing to be quiet and are willing to stand up for their athletes just as Wouda did in 2010.

Team Japan pulled out its athletes at the recent Asian Open Water Swimming Championship.

Team USA recently pulled its athletes from the World University Games (Summer Universiade) due to high water and air temperatures.

Canada is the latest team that made a similar decision at the World University Games; a decision that affected Eric Hedlin, Philippe Guertin, Jade Dusablon and Lauren Teghtsoonian. “Due to water temperatures caused by the recent hot weather at the Summer Universiade in Taipei, Swimming Canada has decided not to allow Canadian athletes to compete in the open water marathon swim,” it announced.

While the event is well organized, with a quality safety plan, Swimming Canada was not able to satisfy all items on its Open Water Safety Checklist. This included an independent final temperature measurement that was outside the maximum allowable range of 31°C established by FINA.”

Safety is always my first concern, and it’s been the primary area of discussion since our arrival,” said Swimming Canada Distance/Open Water Coach Mark Perry. “We have a very comprehensive Red-Amber-Green rated safety system that we use to assess all safety issues before making a decision on whether it’s safe for our athletes to compete. In this case, we feel the conditions warrant withdrawing from the race.”

Safety is our main concern,” added Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi. “We support the decision of the staff to withdraw the athletes. The reality is you cannot control the weather and we are not willing to place our athletes at risk.”

The sport is always evolving and becoming better organized and more professional,” commented Munatones. “It took the initial courage of Marcel Wouda to stand up to FINA decision-makers like Dr. Gerrard and Sam Greetham back in 2010. Back then, Cornel and FINA wanted to discipline anyone who questioned the decision to race in water above 31°C. But now, times have changed for the betterment of the sport.

But it is still curious to me why FINA is very cautious about conducting races in water temperatures under 20°C with its new wetsuit rules, yet things still get fuzzy when there are very warm water races. More curious to me is why coaches are allowing – or requiring? – their athletes to race in black skin-tight full body techsuits when the air and water temperatures rise above 30°C

For related articles, read Great Memories Of Fran Crippen, Great Decision By USA and Japan Is Right On, But What Were Others Thinking?!? and Commentary on 25K FINA World Championships.

Top photo shows the back of Trent Grimsey who finished 5th in the 2011 race in Shanghai.

Men’s Start List at 6:00 am August 27:
*Krzysztof Pawel Pielowski (Poland)
*Andrea Manzi (Italy)
*Pepijn Maxime Smits (Netherlands)
*Musallam Abdullah Al Khadhuri (Oman)
*Cheng Chi Cho (Chinese Taipei)
*Allan Do Carmo (Brazil)
*Oliver Campbell Signorini (Australia)
*Shahar Resman (Israel)
*Yosuke Aoki (Japan)
*Victor Hugo Ribeiro Colonese (Brazil)
*Soeren Detlef Meissner (Germany)
*Alin Alexandru Artimon (Romania)
*Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy)
*Márk Papp (Hungary)
*Kenessary Kenenbayev (Kazakhstan)
*Vit Ingeduld (Czech Republic)
*Vitaliy Khudyakov (Kazakhstan)
*Matej Kozubek (Czech Republic)
*Kai Graeme Edwards (Australia)
*Aleem Stephon Mohammed (Trinidad and Tobago)
*Cristofer Danie Lanuza Segura (Costa Rica)
*Kirill Belyaev (Russia)
*Taiki Nonaka (Japan)
*Roman Kozhevnikov (Russia)
*Tobias Patrick Robinson (UK)

Women’s Start List at 6:15 am August 27th:
*Justyna Dorota Burska (Poland)
*Mariia Novikova (Russia)
*Anna Olasz (Hungary)
*Giulia Gabrielleschi (Italy)
*Alice Georgina Dearing (UK)
*Minami Niikura (Japan)
*Samantha Jean Winward (New Zealand)
*Xeniya Romanchuk (Kazakhstan)
*Onon Katalin Somenek (Hungary)
*Joanna Zachoszcz (Poland)
*Barbara Pozzobon (Italy)
*Viviane Eichelberger Jungblut (Brazil)
*Kareena Jane Lee (Australia)
*Martina Elhenicka (Czech Republic)
*Adeline Furst (France)
*Svenja Theresa Zihsler (Germany)
*Yukimi Moriyama (Japan)
*Lenka Šterbova (Czech Republic)
*Sasha-Lee Da Ro Nordengen-Corris (South Africa)
*Olga Kozydub (Russia)
*Betina Martins Lorscheitter (Brazil)

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Steven Munatones