2019 Splashbacks – Nov-Dec: Andrew Gemmell’s Red Flag On Safety & Elizabeth Beisel Apologizes

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This year has been another stacked with thrills and spills in the aquatics world. It included the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, and the debut of the International Swim League (ISL). Swimming World had our readers covered every step of the way. During the final days of the year, we’ve been looking back in “Splashbacks” to some of the most read stories of 2019.

Our Splashbacks Series:

The final months in our countdown are November and December! 

1. Andrew Gemmell’s Red Flag to FINA: “A Matter of Time Until We Have Another Tragedy”

Tragedy struck the swimming community in 2010 when Fran Crippen tragically lost his life while competing in a race off the coast of the United Arab Emirates complete. The reason? Hot waters over 32C on a hot day. So, safety measures were put in place to protect athletes and prevent tragedy from striking again.

Or so many thought.

U.S. Olympian Andrew Gemmell is just one of many athletes who has stepped forward in recent months in criticism of FINA. According to Gemmell, “It is beyond frustrating seeing the same issues with water temperature and athlete safety continuing to be a problem with open water swimming…The list of major international races that have had to be moved (or should have been moved) or cancelled in the last 8 years is distressingly high.”

Currently, the open water venue at the Tokyo 2020 Games is still a hot button issue. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was quick to act to move the location for the marathon runners and walkers, but has not yet acted for the open water swimmers.

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Fran Crippen – Never Again … a 2015 Swimming World cover … and since then, races under FINA rules have been held in waters over the 31C limit – Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Magazine

2. Elizabeth Beisel Issues Apology After ‘Survivor’ Controvery

Three-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel issued an apology regarding her controversial conduct in mid-November after an episode of Survivor aired where she and fellow contestant, Missy Byrd, played up charges that another contestant was touched inappropriately for competitive advantage.

Beisel’s apology was released via social media. In the apology, Beisel stated,

“If you are reading this, I am assuming you have watched the most recent episode of Survivor and are looking for answers. After watching the episode, my eyes were opened to a completely different truth, and I received an abundance of information that I was entirely unaware of while playing the game.o Kellee. I was sick to my stomach watching the episode and seeing how much pain you were in. I wholeheartedly apologize to you for using your accusations against Dan for gameplay.”

3. Sun Yang vs. WADA: The Anti-Doping Tests, The Olympic Champion, & The Hammer

China’s Sun Yang has (arguably) been in the news from start-to-finish in 2019 and he returned to headlines in November as the case of Sun Yang vs. the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) reached the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). While an official verdict won’t be released until January, this hearing was the culmination of a wealth of information and Swimming World was present at the Montreaux Palace Hotel to document it all.

4. Navy Men’s Swimmers Learn Service Assignments at Purdue Invitational

Each November, senior students at the Naval Academy learn their service assignments. While most students learn of their assignments at the Naval Academy, those on the Navy swimming and diving team learned of their assignments while they were at the Purdue Invitational.

Purdue head coach, Dan Ross, explained, “It’s just so cool to see it. It’s emotional, you get the hairs sticking up on the back of your neck to see the guys so excited they are going to become pilots and warfare officers.”

5. Eddie Reese: Inside the Mind of One of Swimming’s Greatest Coaches

There’s no question that Eddie Reese is a great coach. Reese has been at the helm of the University of Texas’ men’s program since 1978 and in his time has collected 14 NCAA team titles and trained 39 Olympians. Some would think that would get to a coach’s head, but not Reese’s.

“We never talk about winning. I just talk about how can they help me make them better,” Reese explained to Swimming World’s Andy Ross in December. “And they know I don’t accept anything easier than what we are doing. Easy doesn’t work in this sport.”

6. The Sydney Six: They Were Young; They Were Talented; They Defined An Era

It isn’t a rarity to see teenagers at the Olympic level, but experts knew there was something special about the teenagers present at the 2000 Sydney Games. It was there that Michael Phelps, Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol, Klete Keller, Anthony Ervin, and Erik Vendt, also known as the “Sydney Six,” set themselves on historical and unique paths. For the “Sydney Six,” this was the beginning of a new era in men’s swimming.

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Matt Biondi, the director of the Athletes’ Union, with Adam Peaty in London – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

7. Matt Biondi, Living Legend of Olympic Swimming, Returns as Director of the Athletes’ Union

Olympic legend Matt Biondi has returned to the swimming world and he is set to make another large impact. As a competitive swimmer, he won 11 Olympic medals and was the first man under 49 seconds in the 100 freestyle, but now he returns as the Director of the Athletes’ Union. Biondi will have many areas to focus on, but one of his main goals will be making sure that the vision and rights of the athletes are being heard and, more importantly, being listened to. And he has the backing of many of the sport’s elite swimmer’s, including Adam Peaty, Katinka Hosszu, and  Cate Campbell.

8. Chad le Clos and Sarah Sjostrom Call for Lifetime Bans & FINA Ceremonies for Those Cheated Out of Medals

South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom made their feelings known in November when they called on FINA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to issue a lifetime ban to China’s Sun Yang. Both swimmers believe that the two organizations should “get tougher” on doping and adopt a similar stance to that of the International Swimming League (ISL), which has adopted a zero-tolerance stance and held its first season and first Final match this year – Full Coverage of the entire season and the thrilling finale, topped by Energy Standard’s narrow win over London Roar, Cali Condors close and LA Current the fourth team in the League of eight that is about to grow to at least 10 for Season II.

Additionally, both athletes requested that FINA adopt the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) “Take the Podium” Project, a movement aimed to provide ceremonies for those who were deprived of their medals and their moment on the podium by those found cheating.

9. Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Unveils $523m Swimming, Diving, Synchro Venue

It was unveiled in late November that Tokyo 2020 organizers were building a $523 million venue for the swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming (artistic swimming) events. When completed, the venue will be larged enough to seat 15,000 people for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While this pool is being constructed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, it is meant to be used for many years after. The main pool has a movable wall that can transition it from a 50-meter pool to two 25-meter pools and the depth of the pool can be adjusted to keep up with modern times for several decades.

10. Nation’s Capital Swim Club Tops USA Swimming Club Excellence Ranks for 6th Straight Year

Mid-December marked the announcement of USA Swimming’s Club Excellence program and Nation’s Capital Swim Club claimed the top spot for the sixth year in a row. SwimMAC Carolina finished second overall, while Sandpipers of Nevada, Mason Manta Rays, and Dynamo Swim Club rounded out the top five swim clubs in the USA.

The aim of of the Club Excellence program is to identify clubs that have well-rounded programs and are producing strong, elite 18-and-under athletes.