Scenario: It is a close and competitive race where two athletes are sprinting into the finish, or swimming fast towards a turn buoy or a feeding station. They are swimming side-by-side and occasionally bumping into one another. One athlete starts to veer off towards the other athlete in a non-direct line towards the finish, the turn buoy, or the feeding station. They are essentially pushing their competitor off a straight-line tangent to their goal, otherwise called veering.
Situation: Swimmer A veers into Swimmer B and then suddenly shifts direction, this time towards the desired mutual goal. Swimmer A now has the distinct advantage over Swimmer B.
The Issue: Is a call appropriate in this situation? If so, what athlete is called for what infraction of the rules? Is Swimmer A warned or receive a yellow card?
The Call: In many situations, the referee does not give any warning or call even if Swimmer A veers off the straight-line tangent 5º, 10º or as much as 45º.
The accepted logic is that Swimmer A may swim in any direction he wishes and Swimmer B can either (a) speed up and avoid the situation, (b) slow down and change his own direction, or (c) stop and go around the back side of Swimmer A. In some limited situations, the referee gives a whistle warning to Swimmer A.
Our Logic: This is a difficult call and one of the most difficult judgments that an open water swimming official is faced with. We believe Swimmer A is impeding Swimmer B in any case that Swimmer B is impeded from taking a straight-line tangent to his desired direction or target. Whether this veering is 5º, 10º or 45º, we believe the concept of impeding is being committed by Swimmer A. However, if Swimmer B continues along this same direction, then there is no impeding involved. Impeding is only committed when Swimmer B is moved off of his direction which can be determined by frequent physicality between the two swimmers.
To establish objectivity in officiating before the race, a referee can explain his or her opinions and basis for judging veering to the athletes at a pre-race meeting. However, to make a judgment call based on what the referee believes the Swimmer A or Swimmer B’s intentions are is too subjective for fair officiating we believe.
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