At a recent 10 km competition, a competitor was disqualified and told to leave the field of play (i.e., water). Her goggles had snapped and she was disqualified for swimming without goggles. She was close to the feeding station and even her coach did not realize that he could have handed her a new pair of goggles.
To the best of our knowledge and decades of experience, we have never heard that goggles were a required piece of equipment and a reading of the various open water swimming rules do not uncover such a rule.
Swimsuits are required, yes. And so are swim caps in many races. But not goggles. And coaches are allowed to give food, hydration, ear plugs, swim caps and goggles to swimmers at the feeding station or from an escort boat.
We have recently heard of more and more questionable calls by open water swimming officials. From pushing off of a feeding stick to swimming in front of a swimmer.
In many countries, meet officials immediately inform pool swimmers of the rule infraction in the case of a disqualification. This is an accepted practice in the pool and it helps the swimmers improve and learn. Immediate and direct communications between the officials and the swimmers help remove any confusion, frustration and questions about the disqualification.
But, sadly, this is not the current situation in much of the open water swimming world where a yellow card or red flag can be issued without explanation to the swimmer. When an open water swimmer is disqualified, they are not told the reason or the specific infraction. This non-communication often leads to confusion, frustration and allegations of subjectivity in officiating.
The sport needs officials, but they need them to be objective and experienced with a willingness to discuss disqualifications and specific infractions with the athletes.
To walk away and avoid the swimmer after a disqualification is called is not respectful, the height of arrogance and does not give justice to the sport.
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