Cammile Adams Disqualified and Reinstated: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Let’s face it—the first three mornings of preliminary swimming at Olympic Trials had gone very much according to script. There were no major upsets or breakthroughs or even especially fast times. Finals, another story, but coming through the 200 fly, it looked like we had another ho-hum morning in store.

All that changed really quickly. Cassidy Bayer was awaiting her turn to be interviewed when everything in the mixed zone went dead silent. Swimmers, coaches and press all turned towards the downstairs scoreboard to the name at the bottom of the results—Cammile Adams—and the letters “DQ.”

Bayer sat stunned for a moment before we actually turned on the camera. Adams had sprinted away from an on-deck interview with NBC’s Michele Tafoya as soon as she saw the DQ, and during Bayer’s video viewers can see Adams power-walking past with David Marsh and Frank Busch by her side.

The media members speculated on what could have gone wrong but heard nothing official. One swimmer who had been in heat one of the next event, the 200 breast, mentioned that they had been held on deck for several minutes before the race while the results were unofficial.

Finally, Marsh walked back over with USA Swimming communications director Scott Leightman. Marsh stepped away for a moment as Leightman confirmed that they just wanted to be 100% sure that the DQ had been overturned, and Adams was again the top qualifier for the semifinals.

“Cammile had a very nice morning swim,” Marsh said. “The officials on deck, when they perceive something, they can make a call knowing it’s going to underwater backup camera. We went down, looked into our cameras with Cammile, with Frank Busch and myself and the officials.

“The perception by the official was that she came off the wall on her back, and the underwater camera confirms that it has her toes on the wall, [and] she was fully on her side moving toward her stomach.”

Adams came back more than an hour later, obviously relieved after a stressful morning.

“When I saw, obviously a little bit of panic. A lot of panic,” Adams said. “But just really thankful for the systems we have.

“Got to go back to the head official and just look at the underwater camera. With it being overturned, I’m obviously very thankful. I have great support behind me with David and Bob [Groseth] on my end and my dad being here as well, and then Frank Busch came down into the room as well just to have the moral support behind me, and I think it makes a big difference.”

Adams was the top qualifier by almost a second ahead of Hali Flickinger (2:09.20) and Bayer (2:09.29), and the World Championships silver medalist will be favored to make it a second-straight Olympic Trials win in the 200 fly Thursday night.

“Obviously it was a little bit more emotional than I wanted it to be this morning, but I was really happy with that race,” Adams said. “After not racing for two days and just kind of sitting around, I wanted to get back into the meet, and I’m really looking forward to tonight.”

6 comments

  1. avatar
    jeff lewis

    Thats a very hard call for the official to make, seeing the toes come off the wall and then seeing the swimmer still past vertical to the back.
    Glad we now have cameras!

  2. avatar

    Thank goodness for the instant replays.

    The stroke/turn officials too often appear to look for the tiniest of technical infractions on which to disqualify swimmers. It’s particularly disheartening when a dominant swimmer is disqualified, who clearly would have won/qualified anyway, absent the minor technical violation.

    20 years later, my heart still goes out to Kristine Quance, America’s best 400 IMer by a long shot, who was DQ’d in a prelim heat that she otherwise dominated, based on the most minor of perceived turn violations (if memory serves, also a borderline back/side call).

    The purpose of Olympic Trials is to allow the best athletes a fair opportunity to make the team. To disqualify a clearly dominant athlete in a preliminary heat over a borderline technical violation which had no impact on the result of the heat is just wrong.

    We don’t need to change the rules of swimming, but I think a common sense reform to the way Olympic Trials is run is in order. For preliminary heats only, allow a 3 judge panel to evaluate the replay for two factors: (1) was there indeed a violation and (2) did the violation provide an advantage which plausibly affected the results of the heat? In the case of a minor technical violation which clearly did NOT impact the result of the heat, the swimmer would be given the equivalent of a yellow (soccer) card, and allowed to advance to the next level (semis or finals). Only a second yellow card would result in being tossed out of the event.

    • avatar
      Another Official

      Wow, you really don’t know anything about being an official. An Official has the fiduciary duty to provide a FAIR and SAFE environment with the highest possible standards of professionalism. When I say professionalism, I do not mean being paid. ALL the officials at USA Swimming are volunteers moms or dads. At Olympic Trials all the officials are invited from a nationwide pool of N3 (highest level) officials. As an official you must know the rules, review them. Ask questions. Stay informed. Be consistent in the application of the rules. Enforce all rules fairly and equitably. If you see it, and you’re sure of what you saw, CALL IT. Be prepared to answer “who”, “what”, and “where” questions to your Chief judge (CJ). But, remember, benefit of the doubt always goes to the swimmer. Having said that we are humans, thus we can make mistakes. that is why we have an UW camera review panel. your idea how interpreting rules into minor or mayor ones is a slippery slopes of the degradation of the rules. The purpose of Trials is to define the US Olympic Team and the directives and guidelines are depicted in the “MEET ANNOUNCEMENT”. In fact your application of “common sense” is ill conceived, it will create caos where there is order. in closing I invite you Larry to attend an Official Clinic at your local LSC (Local Swimming Committee) so you can become one of thousands of volunteers in this wonderful sport. Be safe…

      • avatar
        jeff lewis

        AMEN and I think that the officials have made great strides in the last 20 years to help bring our sport to the next level.
        I know personally at least two of the officials that were on deck and they represent the highest quality of training and commitment to USA Swimming.
        And for all meets their is a review process already in place from the chief judge, deck referee and meet referee.
        In this case they got the call right.
        Yes come visit a local meet and volunteer to help run a meet.
        It is a great way to view the sport up close and on deck.

    • avatar
      Marcus

      A common misconception is that the rules are there to answer “did the violation provide an advantage which plausibly affected the results of the heat?” as Larry said above. Not all of the rules pertain to providing an advantage. For example, delayed initiating the turn in backstroke actually is a disadvantage: the swimmer slows down if they choose to kick/glide into the wall prior to flipping. However it is a violation of the rules to do so. As an Official I find myself having to always reiterate this point to coaches, swimmers, and parents alike: whether or not violating the rule provides an advantage to the swimmer is irrelevant. These are the agreed upon rules for ALL swimmers, from age 4 to 104, from the Little Tadpoles beginners to the Olympic competitors.

  3. avatar

    To repeat, I’m not suggesting that the rules of swimming be changed. I’m suggesting the the rules by which Olympic Trials are run be changed.

    The best swimmer in the world can swim 50,000 miles in 4 years for the only shot at fame and fortune that the sport provides and lose it all because of a trivial technical violation in a preliminary heat which provided no advantage to the athlete in question and no disadvantage to her rivals. A minor, borderline turn violation is nothing at all like a false start.

    I stand by my prior observation and suggestion.

    Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA