By Steven Munatones, Swimming World Open Water correspondent
ROME, Italy, July 18. WITH strong winds causing heavy surf throughout the night, the open water swimming venue was in no shape for a safe competition. The FINA Bureau made a quick and reasonable decision to postpone and reschedule the three open water races at the 13th FINA World Championships as a result of the weather conditions that are expected to continue throughout the day.
Overnight, the constant 2-4 foot surf destroyed the pier near the start, leaving heavy bits of flotsam in the course. The steel structure of the Omega open water timing system that sits on floating pontoons was washed ashore in a twisted heap. The elaborate 7-camera television setup by Rai TV for a live high-definition broadcast of the 5K, 10K and 25K races was being removed from the shoreline by the production crews as the surf continued to pound the beach.
Similar to the women's 25K championship at the 2007 World Swimming Championships in Melbourne that was canceled mid-race and postponed due to a squall, the signage was torn throughout the Open Water Village and the wind-whipped conditions were not safe for any open water swimming competition. The morning before the 5K race, Sid Cassidy and members of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee discussed the situation with the local organizers and made their recommendations to the FINA Bureau.
Based on forecasts for continued winds, the FINA Bureau decided to postpone the three races for two days. The open water swimmers understood the decision and settled back into their hotels for an extra two days of rest. For those athletes and coaches familiar with races along seaside communities, the possibility of high winds and heavy surf is something they accept. Over the next few days, the Omega staff, Rai TV and the local organizers will have time to reconstruct the equipment necessary to put on what is expected to be a world-class competition.
According to the FINA Bureau's decision, the open water swimming races are rescheduled as follows
• Tuesday, July 21: Women's 5K race at 11:00 am. Men's 5K race at 2:00 pm.
• Thursday, July 23: Women's 10K race at 8:30 am. Men's 10K race at 12:00 noon.
• Saturday, July 25: Men's 25K race at 8:30 am. Women's 25K race at 8:40 am
"We are awaiting official decisions by FINA on the locations,"
USA Swimming's head open water swimming head coach Catherine Vogt said. "We understand that this is a difficult decision to be made and know they will gather all information and be fair to all athletes and teams involved."