There are practical reasons:
1. The finish of an open water race is on a floating pontoon sitting upon a dynamic body of water. That is, the finish is moving up and down as well as left and right, and every which unpredictable way due to the natural movement of the open body of water and the turbulence caused by the swimmers and official boats. In contrast in the pool, swimmers finish against fixed timing pads that are adhered to an unmoveable wall.
2. Open water swimmers can touch any point on the vertical plane on the finish structure. It is their individual choice as to where they touch along the 3-6 meter long finish structure. In the pool, swimmers each finish in a specific lane. That is, the pool swimmers know what finish pad they will touch; the open water swimmers and official do not.
3. Swimmers finish by touching the finish pad. They do not finish by simply crossing or touching the vertical plane of the finish structure.
4. Open water swimmers occasionally finish by touching the same finish touch pad. In the pool, there is only one swimmer per finish touch pad.
5. The electronic finish pads that are used in the pool are an impractical pieces of equipment to place in the open water. Therefore, the open water swimming finish pads are not electronic and placed above the surface of the water.
6. When the swimmer’s hand touches the finish, a time is assigned to that swimmer.
7. A transponder is worn on the open water swimmer’s wrist. However, the time is recorded when the athlete’s finger or hand hits the finish pad. The transponder never touches the finish pad.
8. In the pool, the electronic finish pad is the ultimate decision-maker. In the open water, the eyes of the judges aided by high-speed finish cameras, are the ultimate decision-maker in close races. The high-speed cameras can catch differences up to 1/1000th of a second.
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