USA Swimming Releases Open Water Commission Recommendations -- April 13, 2011

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, April 13. USA Swimming today released the recommendations made by the five-person commission appointed to review the circumstances surrounding the death of open water athlete Fran Crippen at a FINA race in the UAE on October 23, 2010. The full list of recommendations is available here.

USA Swimming will hold a media conference call with Commission Chair Dick Pound, USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton and Executive Director Chuck Wielgus at 1 pm ET today to discuss the recommendations.

An approved safety plan including communications systems and the ability to monitor and reach swimmers during the race as well as minimum and maximum water temperature requirements are among the recommendations made.

"This commission was given two specific charges, and those were to report the circumstances that led to the death of this young athlete, and to provide recommendations to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again," said Open Water Commission Chair Dick Pound. "We are confident that the recommendations we've made reflect an increased concern for safety at these events, and that they do so without paralyzing the sport. What we've produced is a sensible program of action that will significantly reduce the potential for this sort of a tragedy to occur in open water swimming again."

The Commission recommends requiring all open water race organizers to have a safety plan in place which includes sufficient and specific monitoring of swimmers. This would require each race to provide: certified local lifeguards with experience in open water, the ability of safety personnel to observe athletes at all points and an appropriate number of first responders who can reach athletes within 20 seconds. Additionally, the plan calls for one safety craft for every 20 swimmers competing. Also, race organizers would be required to have a safety communications plan which would allow for efficient water-to-water, water-to-land and land-to-water communications.

Other elements of the safety plan include an appropriate number of feeding stations, a course evacuation plan, a check-in and check-out system for swimmers and the holding of a technical meeting prior to the race at which safety information is presented. Also included are safety precautions for pre-race warm-up and post-race warm-down.

The Commission also recommended implementation of a minimum and maximum water temperature in which open water races may be held.

1. If the water temperature is below 16 C (60.8 F), no race can be held.
2. For races of 5K and above, if the water is above 31 C (87.8 F), no race can be held.
3. If the air temperature and water temperature added together (in Celsius) are less than a total of 30, no race can be held.
4. If the air temperature and water temperature added together (in Celsius) are greater than 63, no race can be held.

In addition, the Commission addressed water quality testing, and recommends removing any requirement for athletes to participate in any particular race of an open water series in order to receive final point standings or prize money in the series.

The Commission also recommended the use of tracking devices to track athletes in open water races and a process by which athletes would certify themselves "medically fit and adequately prepared" for the race. The Commission also recommended that USA Swimming hire a full-time person to manage open water administrative tasks.

The Commission will remain standing in anticipation of a report from FINA, the international governing body of swimming.

The above article is a press release submitted to Swimming World Magazine. It has been posted in its entirety without editing. Swimming World offers all outlets the chance to reach our audience by contacting us at However, Swimming World reserves the right to choose what material is posted.

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April 13, 2011 All things considered, I think that the commission did a great job with their report. As intimated by Mr. Pound, I appreciate that they took into consideration whether or not these recommendations would cripple the sport or not; allowing the sport to continue to grow and develop in a safer manner. Now, I'm interested in whom (if anyone) they've chosen for the newly created open water position. Will the typical USA Swimming politics prevail? I'm guessing, yes. Hopefully (I'm crossing my fingers), they will have chosen or will recruit someone with significant experience. It is my belief that this position... and this sport demands knowledge that can only be gained through experience. The myriad of variables that open water swimmers must encounter is what makes the sport so challenging and appealing; fueling its growth. I'm also interested to see how USA Swimming intends to put into place and ultimately police these recommendations in the near future. Spring has sprung and many races are on the horizon. Will race organizers be able to successfully implement these new measures into their events? I guess only time will tell...
Submitted by: stanfordswim
April 13, 2011 stanford - USA Swimming was interviewing candidates lastweekend for this position. Don't know who or when an announcement will be made.
Submitted by: jerry
April 13, 2011 They named Bryce Elser to the position on the conference call. Will get something posted after the call.
Submitted by: Jason Marsteller
April 13, 2011 @stanford- your fears appear to have been realized. I find it hard to imagine that USA Swimming couldn't find a more qualified hire.
Submitted by: Zizzou
April 13, 2011 I'd like to hear this justification...sounds like a trumped-up beach lifeguard.
Submitted by: Gigemaggies
April 13, 2011 Me too...
Submitted by: Zizzou
April 13, 2011 31C/88F is way too hot for a 10k. In typical FINA fashion - god forbid they select a temperature that could impact the Shanghai-London qualifier. Very sad. I hope that the USA Swimming Open Water Development Committee and Board of Directors reduces that to a more reasonable number.
Submitted by: spinners
April 13, 2011 spinners-don't forget the "combined" number. 31 C with 32 C air temperature is do-able. It's 31C water with 38 C air that's killer, and those races are scrapped.

Check out the original study from New South Wales for more info on how they came to those numbers.
Submitted by: Gigemaggies
April 14, 2011 I'd imagine that the committee didn't have much scientific evidence to lead them to choose a specific temperature range. I know that we (AUS) couldn't dig up much of anything on the subject matter. The fact is that there simply is very little research available. Maybe these numbers will change sometime down the road if new evidence (studies) sheds further light on the matter. In the meantime, this certainly seems to be a great start.

As far as the hire is concerned... never heard of the lad. I wish him best of luck since he has an incredibly steep learning curve. To the best of my knowledge (I could be wrong) AUS OWS debated hiring a full time open water coach or a fmr ow swimmer and ultimately decided on the later. It will be interesting to see how other counties fill this now necessary role.
Submitted by: telstrAUS
April 14, 2011 I'm not at all shocked at this [hiring] decision. It's seems to me that this is simply a continuation of the Mark Schubert/USC-era sphere of influence at USA Swimming (Shubert-Mintenko-Elser). I don't know any of them personally so... no offense to any of them. Yet, the message that USA Swimming continually sends is clear. Inward facing decisions aren't what's best for the sport- it's a shame! I can think of dozens of coaches across this country that would be better served to fill this position. Someone recently commented on one of the other threads about the US "losing" coaching talent to other countries. Well, this is one example as to why that is the case!
Submitted by: stanfordswim
April 14, 2011 fairness...this is technically an "administrative" position as defined, not similar to the job that Busch took over for pool swimming.
Submitted by: GigEmAggies
April 14, 2011 I think anything over 28 degree Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit) for a 10K race is too hot. How many people here have swum in 88 degree water - it's suffocating. Furthermore it's close to impossible to swim in waters that hot.

Was the commission thinking - "We'll NEVER have to scrap a contest, great!"?
Submitted by: mario2007
April 14, 2011 @mario2007- 28C is rather warm for a 10k but I'd argue and I'm sure many others would too... that temperature disparities are among one of the challenges that makes this sport so appealing and unique. The question really is: where do you draw the line? I personally think that the current temp regulations are a good start. Maybe we'll revisit them in the future, but I think that we (as a sport) have made dramatic improvements so far. I'd imagine that more changes are on the horizon as we learn more about how water temp influences the body, etc. Then again, given the current olympic format for open water it seems to me that we'll be dealing with warm temps over and over again. Summer games + rowing basins equates to rather warm temps. I can't imagine a olympic venue that would have temps that would ever fall much below the max temp. In a way, it's a shame... Perhaps this rather important consideration played a role in the recommended temp range?
Submitted by: telstrAUS
April 14, 2011 Bonnie Ford of ESPN quoted a couple US athletes who claim that these temps are too high.
Submitted by: Quicksilver
April 15, 2011 We have a decent sized home pool. I can't even imagine swimming any significant distance, say over 500 yards if the water more than 83 degrees. I guess, it *might* be fine swimming in warmer temperatures, but then there should be a lot of supervision where the athletes are swimming if they're going to push the envelope like that.
Submitted by: mario2007
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Fran Crippen
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick


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