USA Swimming Open Water Commission Releases Its Report

USA Swimming Open Water Commission Releases Its Report

USA Swimming released its recommendations made by the five-person commission appointed to review the circumstances surrounding the death of open water athlete Fran Crippen at a FINA race in the United Arab Emirates on October 23, 2010.

The full list of recommendations is available here.

Commission Chair Dick Pound, USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton and Executive Director Chuck Wielgus discussed these recommendations at a media conference today today. These recommendations include a safety plan that requires proper communications and the ability to monitor and reach swimmers during the race as well as minimum and maximum water temperature requirements.

This commission was given two specific charges, and those were to report the circumstances that led to the death of [Fran Crippen] and to provide recommendations to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again,” said Chairman Pound. “We are confident that the recommendations we’ve made reflect an increased concern for safety at these events, and that they do so without paralyzing the sport. What we’ve produced is a sensible program of action that will significantly reduce the potential for this sort of a tragedy to occur in open water swimming again.”

The Commission recommends requiring all open water race organizers to have a safety plan in place which includes sufficient and specific monitoring of swimmers. This would require each race to provide: certified local lifeguards with experience in open water, the ability of safety personnel to observe athletes at all points and an appropriate number of first responders who can reach athletes within 20 seconds. The plan also calls for one safety craft for every 20 swimmers in the water and a required safety communications plan which would allow for efficient water-to-water, water-to-land and land-to-water communications.

Other elements of the safety plan include an appropriate number of feeding stations, a course evacuation plan, a check-in and check-out system for swimmers and the holding of a technical meeting prior to the race at which safety information is presented. Also included are safety precautions for pre-race warm-up and post-race warm-down.

The Commission also recommended implementation of minimum and maximum water temperatures in which open water races may be held.

1. If the water temperature is below 16°C (60.8°F), no race can be held.
2. For races of 5K and above, if the water is above 31°C (87.8°F), no race can be held.
3. If the air temperature and water temperature added together (in Celsius) are less than a total of 30, no race can be held.
4. If the air temperature and water temperature added together (in Celsius) are greater than 63, no race can be held.

In addition, the Commission addressed water quality testing, and recommends removing any requirement for athletes to participate in any particular race of an open water series in order to receive final point standings or prize money in the series.

The Commission also recommended the use of tracking devices to track athletes in open water races and a process by which athletes would certify themselves ‘medically fit and adequately prepared’ for the race. The Commission also recommended that USA Swimming hire a full-time person to manage open water administrative tasks.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones