Yellow Flags And Red Cards

Yellow Flags And Red Cards

There are no replays or do-overs in marathon swimming. All rule infractions and penalties are in the eyes of the beholders – who are, in the case of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim and other major international competitions, in boats cruising alongside the swimmers.

If the swimmers commit a rule infraction, they can be given either a warning whistle or a yellow card or a red card. The infraction can be either an unintentional or intentional act of impeding another swimmer or committing an unsportsmanlike act.

Often, an unintentional act or a minor infraction will only warrant a warning whistle from the referees. But if the infraction is more serious, the referee will issue a yellow card. On receiving a second yellow card, the swimmer is disqualified and must leave the body of water. Sometimes, if an act is so aggressive or belligerent, the referee can issue a red card and the swimmer is immediately disqualified and removed from the race.

A Yellow Flag or Yellow Card (noun): A yellow-colored penalty card or flag that indicates an official warning to a swimmer due to unsportsmanlike conduct or an infraction of the rules during an open water race. The head referee gave a yellow card to the swimmer who cut across the back of his competitor. Synonym: warning.

Red Card (noun): A red-colored penalty card that indicates the immediate disqualification of a swimmer due to unsportsmanlike conduct or a serious infraction of the rules during an open water race. The head referee gave a red card to the swimmer who pulled back his competitor around the turn buoy. Synonyms: disqualification, DQ.

During the 2009 USA Swimming National 10K Championship race, head referee Sid Cassidy, was caught on tape giving a yellow flag to one of the swimmers.

The process of blowing a whistle, giving hand signals to the athletes, writing the swimmer’s number on the white board and reporting the infraction to the Chief Referee is rarely seen from shore or by spectators. However, the entire process can be seen in this short race video off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida.


Definition excerpts from the Open Water Swimming Dictionary (2009 English edition).

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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