Marathon Swimmers Recommend Changes On Pro Circuit

Marathon Swimmers Recommend Changes On Pro Circuit

Professional marathon swimmers are a select group.

This year, 187 men from 38 countries and 145 women from 35 countries competed in FINA pro marathon swims in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, Portugal, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.

Like professional athletes in any sport, they are a proud, committed, seriously competitive bunch. They also face off against each other and, like marathon swimmers everywhere, face the elements – cold water, warm water, rough conditions, currents, waves, tides, jellyfish and winds. From the young ones at the age of 16 to the older veterans in their 30’s, the globe-trotting pro swimmers are a close-knit community.

In the water, they give their all, sometimes pushing themselves beyond all reason. Out of the water, they form profoundly emotional bond that transcend languages and cultures. Whether their native tongues are Germanic, Slavic, Romance, Scandinavian or Asian, they all come out of the water describing the conditions in similar terms: long and hard, cold and wavy, hot and rough, punishing and fast.

After Fran Crippen’s tragic death in October, the tight-knit group of athletes became even closer. More than ever before, they spoke out and they shared their fears, thoughts and opinions, with each other, their coaches and the media. They talked, they met and they documented about their ideas for greater safeguards at their marathon races. Their desire for change easily and immediately crossed borders and cultures as the young athletes look towards their sport’s leaders and administrators, especially the local race directors, to implement 11 key changes:

1. Establish Minimum and Maximum Temperature Ranges
The athletes believe there should be limits for warm and cold water. The athletes are calling for research on human physiology and, as a result, possible implementation of ranges from 18°C (64.4°F) to 28°C (82.4°F).

2. Confirmation of Good Water quality
The athletes believe water and air quality reports should be independently confirmed by international health organizations before an event is held.

3. Increase in the Number of Rescue boats
The athletes believe the ratio of safety boats to swimmers should 1:1 (one boat for every swimmer) and that the race should be cancelled if this ratio is not met.

4. Utilization of Transponders
The athletes believe that swimmers should wear transponders on both wrists at all competitions. Ideally, the lightweight communication devices are the same for each competition with a GPS tracking function that allows officials to follow their progress and pinpoint the exact location of each swimmer throughout the race.

5. Standardization of Turn Buoys, Feeding Pontoons and Finish
The athletes believe that the different elements of each competition – the turn buoys, feeding pontoons, finish funnels and touch pads should be the same. The same size and color buoys at every event, clearly marked and anchored feeding pontoons, easy-to-see finish funnels and touch pads.

6. Standardized Information Distribution at Pre-race Technical Meetings
The athletes believe that the same information, presented in a clear, concise, common format, should be shared about the race and the safety elements at the pre-race technical meeting attended by all the athletes and their coaches.

7. Availability of A Swimming Pool
The athletes believe that a swimming pool, adequate for world-class professional athletes, must be assured for every day of their official stay at each location.

8. Consideration of the Date and Start Time
The athletes believe that extreme climatic conditions and the time of the race start and finish must be considered – and alternatives implemented – in order to ensure that swimmers are not racing in potentially dangerous conditions.

9. Elimination of an Existing FINA Rule
The athletes believe that the current rule that requires swimmers to complete the final race on the circuit in order to be eligible for the season-ending cash prize should be eliminated.

10. Confirmation of Minimum Accommodation Levels
The athletes believe that they deserve quality accommodations and appropriate quantities of high-quality fresh foods. This would eliminate room-sharing at several races.

11. Modification of the Current Race Calendar
The athletes believe that it is not rational or financially sustainable to travel between different continents throughout the season. They want the calendar to offer races that minimizes international travel.

While there are many other suggestions that have been discussed in person, on the telephone and virtually over online social networks, the athletes themselves have explicitly expressed and documented these 11 recommendations. As they have stated, “We look forward to being involved in a consultative process in helping to improve the safety, health and well-being of everyone involved in our sport.”

Copyright © 2010 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones