Great Memories Of Fran Crippen, Great Decision By USA

Courtesy of Tactics & Techniques of Elite Open Water Swimmers, The Athlete Village, Long Beach, California.

The Tactics & Techniques of Elite Open Water Swimmers was filmed at the 2010 USA Swimming Open Water National Championships in Long Beach, California.

Fran Crippen pulled alongside world champion Chip Petterson towards the end of the race while holding off Olympians Andrew Gemmell and Alex Meyer in a battle for the national title.

Fran’s fierce competitiveness and his unbridled joy in pushing himself was always an inspiration to watch,” observed Steven Munatones. “He is such a treasure to the open water swimming world and his loss at a FINA competition run by Ayman Saad was a huge blow to the sport.

But his death opened the eyes of the open water swimming community about the dangers of swimming in warm water. People have always been concerned by hypothermia in cold water, but it is really the risk of hyperthermia in warm water conditions that has led to more deaths in the sport on a worldwide basis.”

After many months of deliberation and introspection, FINA instituted many changes including establishing a maximum water temperature rule of 31°C.*

Unfortunately, this FINA rule is sometimes adhered to and sometimes not, depending on the race, coaches and event directors.

The 2017 Asian Open Water Swimming Championship was held in water that warmed up to 31.9°C (89.42°F) before the 10 km race. Ronnie Wong, the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee chairman, decided to hold the race anyway and four athletes ended up hospitalized.

Team Japan – rightly so – pulled its swimmers from the event. It was a telling decision because the Japanese athletes (Yasunari Hirai and Yumi Kida) were overwhelmingly favored to win the 10 km race, but the Japanese understood the health risks in racing over 10 km in water over 31°C (87.8°F).

Same thing happened at the 25 km race at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Shanghai when the water temperatures exceeded 31°C, but FINA delegates including Sam Greetham and its FINA Sports Medicine Committee members under the direction of Dr. David Gerrard decided it was safe to race in extremely warm water above 31°C – even as athletes were being rescued and taken to local hospitals due to hyperthermia.

Like Team Japan earlier this year, I greatly respect reigning world champions Alex Meyer and Linsy Heister as well as world champion Thomas Lurz for standing up and pulling out of the 2009 FINA World Championships because of dangerously warm conditions.

Similarly, USA Swimming – with institutional experience of the avoidable death of one of its athletes – is very careful when it comes to warm-water conditions.

USA Swimming announced that the four Americans (Katy Campbell, Becca Mann, Taylor Abbott and David Heron) scheduled to swim in the 10 km race at the upcoming World University Games on August 27th will not compete given the expected high air and water conditions.

It announced, “USA Swimming would like to thank FISU and the local organizing committee for their diligent work on developing an excellent course and safety plan for the event. As a sport, open water swimming presents a number of variables, including, in this instance, weather and water temperature. The safety of its athletes is USA Swimming’s No. 1 priority, and this decision was made after thorough examination of all available information.”

* FINA OWS 5.5: The water temperature should be a minimum of 16°C and a maximum of 31°C. It should be checked the day of the race, 2 hours before the start, in the middle of the course at a depth of 40 cm. This control should be done in the presence of a Commission made up of the
following persons present: a Referee, a member of the Organising Committee and one coach from the teams present designated during the Technical Meeting.

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association