Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Rome

Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Rome

Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Rome

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The World Open Water Swimming Association offers a series of talks about open water swimming. One series includes Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History.

Not all the great moves in open water swimming history is done by swimmers. Escort boat pilots, coaches and kayakers also play an essential role in the sport.

Rick Walker of Southern Illinois University is one of these individuals who always demonstrates outstanding commitment and passion in the sport. Serving as a FINA official at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, Italy, he literally saved Kate Brookes-Peterson of Australia while serving as a referee in the women’s 25 km race.

But Walker typically downplays his role.

It is with great humility and somewhat awkward feeling that I talk about this. Humility, because I did not think of my actions as heroic. I saw the danger unfolding, it happened, I dealt with it, and continued with the rest of my duties of the race. It is awkward for me because there are so many coaches and officials who have responded to tragedies and more important have prevented them from occurring in the first place. It’s about the athlete, it always has been.”

Walker has always stressed safety when dealing with the open water world – where he has performed extraordinarily well for the past few decades. “Had it not been for my safety certification, I might as well have been some guy off the street and the athlete would have drown. Truth be known, that’s what saved her life, I was merely the vessel, the real hero’s are the individuals who developed the safety programs and those who continue to make the sport better.”

He knew the athletes, the conditions and the rules, but he also knew that something was up when he saw two-time world championship medalist Brookes-Peterson uncharacteristically struggling. He just knew something might be up. “I wanted to be in a position to help if anything went wrong. It was rough and we had a situation.”

As he directed his official referee’s boat towards the back of the lead pack, he recalled, “I saw Kate go through the feeding pontoon and she didn’t look good. She was struggling. Because she was normally a strong swimmer, I knew something was not right. I then informed the head referee that I was going to look after Kate. When I was heading over to her [in the official’s boat], she stopped, went vertical and raised her hand. Then, she went under. I was watching her position as we were moving towards her. When she came back up, she was gasping for air. She waved her hand, went limp and went under again.

When we got to her, her hand was up [towards the surface of the water], but underwater. I was able to reach down and grab her [underwater] and pull her up. I don’t think she was going to come back up. She gasped for air [as she surfaced] and we finally got her into the boat as she passed out. She was about for about 30 seconds.”

His foresight, his understanding of the athletes and his knowledge of the potential dangers of open water swimming that saved Kate. “It’s a good thing we got to her before she took in too much water and drowned. We were thankful to get her out of the water and out of danger.”

A hero for sure.

* Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Lac St-Jean is here
* Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Lake Michigan is here
* Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Marine Stadium is here
* Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Beijing is here
* Great Moves In Open Water Swimming History – Mount Everest is here

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Steven Munatones