Olympic Swimmers Call on Trump to Assist in Opening of Pools

Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @GopherSwimDive

A Who’s Who of Olympic athletes, coaches and others at the helm of the aquatic sports sector sent a letter Tuesday to President Donald Trump urging him to help get pools reopened across the U.S. as a matter of public health and safety.

The letter, which is below, is signed by 36 Olympic swimmers and water polo players as well as 27 coaches and swimming industry executives. It represents more than 5,000 businesses in the professional aquatics industry, dozens of which are signed on to the letter. It speaks to the interests of half a million or more athletes looking to get back in the water.

Athletes signing the letter to President Trump include Olympic champions Debbie Meyer, Bruce Furniss, Steve Furniss, Rowdy Gaines, BJ Bedford, Jenny Thompson, Lenny Krayzelburg, Anthony Ervin, Gary Hall Jr., Amanda Beard, Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, Ryan Lochte, Jason Lezak, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers, as well as Lia Neal, Tony Azevedo and many more.

The letter specifically cites the need for swimming education to return. Drowning is a leading cause of death for young children, and data shows that swimming education is effective in preventing unnecessary deaths in the water. Without pools open for lessons and to provide a controlled environment for swimming, the drowning risk increases.

With summer arriving, that risk is becoming graver. Restarting learn-to-swim and water safety classes has been cited as vital in a number of areas, from being a cornerstone of Kentucky’s push to reopen pools to a major concern in Washington state. Restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic that keep aquatic businesses closed also pose a threat to their existence and the services they render.

From the letter:

During these unprecedented times we truly believe we can safely return to the pools without jeopardizing the “new normal” that all Americans want and deserve. The CDC and NIH has confirmed that the disease cannot spread in properly chlorinated water. For physical and mental health, the water is one of the safer places to be at this time, and swimming is a lifelong activity. Opening swim centers would allow children to learn much needed water safety and drowning prevention skills. It would allow the 500,000 youth athletes on America’s swim teams to get back to their training. It would allow MILLIONS of American adults to exercise safely and build their immune systems which is needed now more than ever! We can do this safely. Swim training programs are carefully structured and can follow all recommendations that the CDC has recently released to reopen swimming pools.

Part of the effort is to weigh the risk of COVID-19 transmission, which is extremely low in properly treated water, with the known risk of untrained young swimmers in the water, which is proven to be high.

“It’s absolutely essential that every child in America learns how to swim to save their own life,” said Cindy Tonnesen, founder and board chair of Hope Floats Foundation and the co-founder of SwimKids Swim Schools, in an interview with Swimming World. “… Drowning is the leading cause of death in young children in America, and many, many pools are closed right now. We need to get back, as aquatic professionals, to do what we do best, and that’s helping kids learn to save their own lives.”


The letter to President Trump

Read the full letter to President Trump

Many of the same aquatic professionals also sent a letter last Friday to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who is the chair of the National Governors Association. That letter cited a number of the same water-safety points and asserted that many aquatic facilities have the procedures to implement social distancing and other safety protocols. It also expressed a feeling widespread in the industry of having “been miscategorized with public recreational swimming which puts us at risk as small businesses.”

Part of the complication of reopening pools from the coronavirus shutdown is the inherently local nature of the pandemic, with openings proceeding state-by-state and county-by-count. That leaves aquatic professionals like Paris Jacobs, the Chief Operating Officer of the American Swimming Coaches Association, hoping these letters serve as resources for overwhelmed governments.

“It became very clear quickly that with states, this is a new time for everybody, and health departments and governors are struggling with how to ensure social distancing within a pool and in a rec environment,” Jacobs told Swimming World. “I understand that. I’m working with local pools. We’re working through those challenges. … It’s critical, and we need to educate governors that there are guidelines out there. Many may not be aware that USA Swimming and the US Swim School Association issued guidelines to help in accordance with the CDC guidelines, and that wasn’t being addressed.”


Read the letter to Gov. Hogan 

The letters seek to unite the voices of the aquatics industry, from the water-safety aspect of young swimmers to adults using pools for their physical and mental health. Tonnesen likened all those pushing to get pools reopened, from elite swimmers down to those seeking learn-to-swim classes, as “in the same boat.”

Jacobs emphasized a top-down communications approach, hoping to reach Hogan and members of the Trump administration to have them aid in spreading the need for pool reopening through the states.

“This is new to everyone,” Jacobs said. “Everybody has 50 different versions. You have to look at your facility, your state’s guidelines, CDC guidelines and put it all together with the recommendations and present that plan. And that’s what we’re hoping to educate the governors so that they’re more open to the plan.”

Swimming Through a Pandemic

The postponements and cancellations wrought by COVID-19 haven’t just affected the Olympics and the ranks of elite swimmers. They’ve trickled down to neighborhood clubs and summer youth leagues, affecting thousands of recreational and competitive swimmers alike. Here is some of our coverage of COVID-19’s effect on the American summer swimming calendar.

Resources for returning to the pool in the COVID-19 era


    • avatar

      Please open the pools!

  1. Loretta Harris

    But it’s not the president who needs to reopen the pools…it’s the governors.

    • Tammy Arbogast

      The article states that they also sent a letter to a Larry Hogan, the head of the governors association.

    • Loretta Harris

      Tammy Arbogast I Hope so…unfortunately people who do not understand how much work goes into being a competitive swimmer and the amount of training, and how fast they can lose stamina and their times NOT being in the water…will never think of it in terms of “importance or a must” to them it’s just fun and games.

    • Paris Smith Jacobs

      Tammy Arbogast Correct, we sent the letter to Hogan for this reason and it is being reviewed. Having a guidelines provided by HHS (WH) to the Governors as they have for other return to sports will only strengthen the position within each states and local levels.

    • Jennifer Brurok

      Loretta Harris EXACTLY!!! Thank God I live in Indiana and not IL or MI!!!

    • Ann Doe

      Loretta Harris exactly!! Our county approved it last week but the city disapproved it.

    • avatar

      Our Olympians need to learn about federalism.

  2. Patsy Patterson Martin

    I am 84 , I have stayed in health because of swimming , don’t kill me now. Lawrence ville nj.

  3. Michael Murray

    Perhaps I missed it, but I haven’t seen a single piece of information/ guidance on social distancing for those just learning to swim.

    • Loretta Harris

      Michael Murray the focus for now are the athletes who need to be back in the water for Olympic trials and higher levels of competitive swimming. Individuals who are learning to swim and the little swimmers…and summer leagues…will need more time.

    • Michael Murray

      Loretta Harris That makes sense, but this article is about how elite athletes are saying that its important for new swimmers to jump in.

    • Loretta Harris

      Michael Murray yes…but new swimmers need more hands on. No way to put new swimmers in and be able to provide proper safety.

    • Paris Smith Jacobs

      Michael the US Swim School Association has released a detailed and comprehensive guideline for LTS programs. Also, many aquatics groups and swim schools have developed plans to submit to their local health departments and government.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Good point, Michael. I’m sure it’s out there… we’ll try to find it…

    • Michael Murray

      Paris Smith Jacobs I would love to see a link if you have it.

  4. Keith Beal

    I mean c’mon, water parks are opening up in Texas!! Open up swimming for those who want. Those who are scared & cautious can stay home.

  5. Jen Hintz

    Governor JB Pritzker restore Illinois-open the pools for practice, therapy and exercise

  6. Cindy Romeo Tonnesen

    Thank you Swimming World, for sharing this important piece and helping Aquatics professionals get back to saving lives! Honored to be a part of this effort to be quoted in the article.

    • Brian Muhs

      Brandon Knighten you better pray he learns because the leftists in the country would be happy if all sports were gone. Because they want everyone to be equal. No athletes allowed..

    • Brandon Knighten

      Brian Muhs you better pray he can enroll at the prestigious Trump University and learn..

    • Brian Muhs

      Brandon Knighten ahh. That explains it. You live in California. Well.. Your kid will probably never swim again. Great governor you got there.. Bahahaha.. good luck you’ll definitely need it.. Your pools will most likely be closed for a very long time..

    • Brian Muhs

      Brandon Knighten at home maybe.

    • Brian Muhs

      In the clubs pool.. Nope. Closed all summer.

    • Rhi Jeffrey

      Brian Muhs brah I live in a red state and our pools may not open all summer either. Stop with the red vs blue BS

    • Brandon Knighten

      Club swimming will resume in June in California..

    • Brian Muhs

      Rhi Jeffrey were open in AZ..

    • Brian Muhs

      Rhi Jeffrey wah wah wah. Read the initial comments.

    • Rhi Jeffrey

      Brian Muhs so cause one red state opens that means they all follow that rule? That’s not how it should or does work. Just like not all lefties want sports to end. I’m a “lefty” and I’ve been petitioning my red state Governor to open pools for two weeks to silence. Again stop with the partisan stuff we need to come together not divide each other further.

    • Rhi Jeffrey

      Brian Muhs man, you must be real fun at parties ?

    • Rhi Jeffrey

      Brian Muhs and clowns like me? That’s nice man. Bringing out the personal attacks and name calling when I didn’t do that to you. Classy ??

    • Tina Evans

      Rhi Jeffrey sounds like where I live

  7. Anne-Marie Tucker

    There’s something bitterly humorous about this title. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone’s safety.

  8. James Jerald Klatt

    Its not trump, it is the blue state governors that are doing this.

    • Brandon Knighten

      100,000 dead in 3 months might be a playing factor….

    • John Scaldini

      James Jerald Klatt those darn blue governors following the federal guidelines…How dare they!

  9. Doug Schack

    And cue the TDS. You wouldn’t want him to use his “power” to close the pools. Why should he use his power to open them. Political power people, you always need to consider both sides of it.

  10. Rachel Wall

    Its not up to Trump. It is up to the individual Governors. Swim clubs are allowed to open in MS, but with no more than 20 per practice at the most.

    • Doug Schack

      Rachel Wall everyone just assumes that the president is the ultimate power in the US. That’s why they freak out over who gets elected instead of reading about how their government is actually set up and functions (or malfunctions as the case may be) ??‍♂️

      • avatar
        Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

        That comes down to education and whether leaders tell people whether they are ‘the ultimate power’ (even when they’re actually not) and how many believe them. A theme for our times, for sure.

    • Eileen Amador Phillips

      Rachel Wall Consider your team lucky! Our club team uses 4 high schools in CO, and the school district said no to us using their facilities. Disappointing for sure.

    • Rachel Wall

      Eileen Amador Phillips in a way we are lucky, but thanks to Covid the wellness center than runs our pool is now permanently closed.

    • Jonathan Fauth

      Rachel Wall It’s not up to him, but he can advocate for a cause, and they wrote a letter asking him to do so.

  11. Scott Loder

    Open in Florida… with some changes but sure is great!!!! Hard working rec departments and the best coaches!!!

  12. avatar
    G. H.

    Many public pools are funded by tax payers and the restrictions for social distancing would make the net losses of opening pools much greater. Some will say that you should rent the pool but tax payers push back on excessive rentals. Not one person addresses the economic impact of the reduced guest numbers in the decision making.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      G.H. you raise interesting thoughts. Presumably, little or no provision as been made in planning for what you’re talking about because, as it is with many realms, the evidence is clear: in certain circumstances, COVID-19 (which, researchers now say there is a body of evidence to support, causes long-term health issues in those who are not worst affected and appear to recover well, children included) is highly contagious and carries serious risks. The balance is not simply “old folk and vulnerable” V “the economy”: the picture is much more complex than that. Controls, social distancing among them, have been effective in stopping what could have been a much worse spread and victim count in many parts of the world. It therefore makes sense to avoid ‘mass gatherings’ and even ‘problematic gatherings’ until further notice to avoid what for some could yet be a first wave, let along a second. For a while, there will be no ‘back to normal’. Humans are resourceful: we have to find a way of making it work under the new circumstances we find ourselves in. The alternative is to make 350,000 deaths, 100,000 of them in one country, an acceptable price without realising that that count was only possible WITH controls and would have been much worse without controls (and may yet be if we don’t heed the facts of the matter and learn from the experience of different ways in which different people in different cultures handled it… some of those would not be acceptable in our countries and cultures but however we deal with this, we have to accept that until there are remedies (possibly vaccine) that would allow a return to a mountain of equipment and 10 kids within 20m of each other at a wall, basic hygiene failings such as shared drink bottles, etc etc, distancing, among other measures, are what the sport will have to work with. The trick is to change our habits and the times of day we might all be available to go for a swim. A great deal of the world works things like 9-to-5 because its grown like that. There is room for other models and provisions – and some of those may even make the world a nicer place 🙂

  13. Ed Eckels

    In NJ most swimmers train in HS or college pools so it’s a matter of individual institutions opening up.
    I don’t see how you can push Princeton or Rutgers to move faster in reopening.

  14. Laura Ahart

    Most are open in NC. Going on 2 weeks of club swim. All other pools were cleared to open Memorial Day weekend.

  15. Loretta Harris

    In So Cal…hitting high 90s and triple digits a few times…pools still not open yet.

  16. Anne-Marie Tucker

    Seeing swimming and trump in the same sentence makes me sick. ?‍♀️?

    • Anne-Marie Tucker

      Cindy Sykes Denny You’re absolutely right. It’s not my beloved sport that’s making me sick.

    • Bill Reddick

      Just think of him in an old-school speedo ATM….. that will do the trick

  17. Debbie Konarski

    Please open the pools. Swimmers need to swim.

    • Michael White

      Heather York DiFulvio that’s why this is the perfect plan.

    • Judy Sandlin

      Heather York DiFulvio yes he does but this also needs to be brought up

  18. Paul Anthony

    Karen Jiggetts You don’t have to like Jordan, Phelps or Tiger, but you can’t deny the success. If you do, you are just a hater and denying reality.

  19. Karen Jiggetts

    Paul Anthony I’m definitely not denying those athletes.

  20. Paul Anthony

    Karen Jiggetts Objective stats. Same with Trump. Some aspects of a Presidency are subjective but, for example, economic numbers Trump put up are definitely GOAT