USA Swimming Releases Open Water Commission Recommendations

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 Newsmaster@swimmingworldmagazine.com. However, Swimming World reserves the right to choose what material is posted.

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