JINSHAN CITY, China, July 22. THE 25K open water event is underway in China at the FINA world championships, and several notable names, including the reigning world champions, have withdrawn from the competition, citing warm water temperatures as the primary reason.
Swimming World has learned that the American entries in the race, Alex Meyer and Haley Anderson, decided just minutes before the race started at 6 a.m. China time (6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the United States) to withdraw. Meyer was the 2010 world champion in the 25K and earned a berth in the Olympic 10K race by placing fourth in Wednesday's race. Anderson was looking to improve on her fourth-place finish at the 2010 world championships. The 25K was to be Anderson's only swim at the world championships.
Claire Thompson, however, elected to remain in the race. As USA Swimming explained in an official statement to Swimming World, the Amateur Sports Act guarantees athletes the right to compete, so USA Swimming could not block Thompson from competing. See the full statement below.
As reported earlier, the two entrants from the Netherlands, reigning women's 25K world champion Linsy Heister and Tom Vangeneugden, have been pulled from the race, also citing heat concerns.
And shortly after winning the 5K title yesterday, Thomas Lurz announced he would not be swimming in today's 25K race. Though a frequent medal winner in the 5K and 10K races, Lurz has never won a world championship medal in the 25K distance.
To combat the potential of adverse conditions on the race course, meet officials have twice moved the start of the race. Initially, the race was to begin at 8 a.m., but was moved to 7 a.m. last week. On Wednesday, organizers made the decision to move the start to 6 a.m.
Since the first race on Tuesday, swimmers have complained that the water at Jinshan City Beach is too warm. The temperature of the water, which is pumped into a dam from the nearby sea, is 30 degrees Celsius, or about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This falls just below the new FINA recommendation of 31 degrees Celsius as the maximum water temperature. This guideline was set earlier this year, after a FINA investigation and report on the death of Fran Crippen last October from heat exhaustion and drowning.
Some athletes were unable to finish the 10K race earlier in the week, and the South African team withdrew from the 5K team event yesterday, citing high temperatures as a primary reason.
Today's race will still feature plenty of star power. Valerio Cleri of Italy and Peter Stoychev of Bulgaria were the silver and bronze medalists in the men's race at the 2010 worlds, and were listed on the start list. The second and third place finishers in the women's race in 2010, Margarita Dominguez of Spain and Celia Barrot of France, were also listed in the participants lining up for today's race.
Full list of swimmers that Did Not Start (DNS) at the beginning of each race:
Belgium's Tom Vangeneugden, Egypt's Islam Mohsen, USA's Alex Meyer, Belgium's Brian Ryckeman, Egypt's Mazen Mohamed Aziz and Germany's Thomas Lurz for the men; The Netherlands' Linsy Heister and USA's Haley Anderson for the women.
USA Swimming's Official Statement Regarding Withdrawal
USA Swimming coaches and officials recommended to its athletes that they not swim in today's Open Water 25K due to extreme temperature conditions. The official water temperature at 5:30 a.m. local time was 30.4 degrees, very near to exceeding the recommendations made by the Open Water Commission. USA Swimming felt it in the best interest of athlete safety that they not compete today. Athlete safety is USA Swimming's top priority.
After a collaborative discussion between USA Swimming staff, coaches, athletes and athletes' personal coaches, it was determined that Haley Anderson (who was ill yesterday) and Alex Meyer would not compete in the race. Claire Thompson made the decision to swim in the race, and USA Swimming coaches implemented a plan to monitor her closely throughout the competition.
The Amateur Sports Act guarantees American athletes the right to compete.