The Week That Was: Swimmers Speak Up on George Floyd’s Death, Protests Around US

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Simone Manuel. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

The Week That Was is sponsored bySuit-extractor-logo

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

USA national team members Simone Manuel and Natalie Hinds used their voices to speak up about the death of George Floyd this past weekend, as his death sparked conversations across the United States and the world. Other prominent national team members, past and present, discussed their concerns with race relations in the U.S. Cullen JonesLia NealOlivia Smoliga and Hali Flickinger took to social media as well to write heartfelt messages concerning the state of their country at the moment.

The British and Russian national team swimmers were permitted to return to the pool last week for the first time since mid-March, as they start their preparations for next year’s Olympic Games.

Read below the five biggest stories in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #5: Olympic Swimmers Call on President Trump to Assist in Opening Pools

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An empty pool – an all too familiar sight. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Matthew De George

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 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.

#4: Daiya Seto to Swim Under New Coach Ryuichiro Ura

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Daiya Seto streamlines towards his World Record at the ISL finale in December – Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D’Alberto/LaPresse

By Craig Lord, Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

Daiya Seto, Japan’s top shot at gold in the pool at a home Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021, has stunned his sport and nation by appointing a former classmate as his new mentor in the pool.

Seto, who parted company last month with longtime coach Takayuki Umehara towards the end of a winter that saw him take down the World short-course 400m medley record racing for Energy Standard as the first Japanese swimmer in the International Swimming League last year, and the Asian 200m butterfly standard, will be guided towards a home Games by former swimmer Ryuichiro Ura, Seto’s classmate at sports powerhouse Saitama Sakae High School, according to reports in Japan.

Umehara had guided the multiple world record-holder since elementary school and celebrated the 400m medley World title record three times, in 2013, 2015 and again last year at Gwangju 2019. The swimmer and coach have amassed 28 international podiums for Japan, among them nine World titles and eight gold medals at Pan Pacific, Asian Games and Universiade events.

The Week That Was #3: Pan Pacific Championships Moved to 2026

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Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada/Irwin Wong

By Andy Ross

Swimming Canada announced Thursday that the 2022 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships will be deferred to 2026 out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The four Pan Pacific Charter Nations (Australia, Canada, Japan, United States) have agreed to move the Pan Pacs to 2026 with Canada remaining the host.

#2: British, Russian National Team Swimmers Return to Pool

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The Brits 4×100 medley relay team – a selfie – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

By Liz Byrnes & Andy Ross

British Swimming have announced that 32 swimmers will be allowed to return to training at the national centres in Loughborough and Bath.

British Swimming released a statement on Tuesday saying that those athletes would be able to resume working in the pool in Step One of a two-phased return.

It follows guidance issued by the UK Government almost a fortnight ago on how elite athletes can return to training in Britain as lockdown measures against the coronavirus are eased.

The Performance Leadership Group (PLG) of British Swimming’s World Class Performance Programme identified those swimmers as:

  1. Athletes selected for the British Senior 2019 World Championship pool team (long course)
  2. Marathon athletes that have been selected to participate in the Tokyo Olympic qualifier in May 2021 (10km open water)

Members of the Russian National Swim Team returned to pool training in Kazan, where elite athletes were allowed to train in compliance with a number of restrictive measures. Since March, athletes have not had the opportunity to train in the pool due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In Kazan, they are allowed into the pool wearing masks and gloves,” Veronika Andrusenko told Russian News Agency RIA Novosti. “You come in and they measure the temperature, spray your hands with an antiseptic when you take off your gloves. There are one or two people on the track so as not to disturb discipline and social distance. The trainers on the sides are wearing masks and gloves. But the sensations from the water are amazing! You understand how you missed this, why you were in a bad mood.”

The Week That Was #1: Simone Manuel, Natalie Hinds, and Katie Ledecky Use Voice to Speak Up on Death of George Floyd

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Natalie Hinds. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

By Andy Ross

Olympic champions and world record holders Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky – Stanford teammates – and fellow pro-swimmer Natalie Hinds shared their thoughts on the death of George Floyd on social media on Saturday. Floyd’s name has been heard all around the world the last week following his death after being held down by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25 in Minnesota. Video shows Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes and without relenting, despite Floyd stating that he could not breathe.

Olympic swimmers Cullen Jones and Lia Neal also shared their thoughts on the events in the week that was.

Manuel:

Days feel heavy and long. It’s hard not to feel or think about the sadness and hatred that weighs heavily on me, my people, and this nation. I’m hurt. I’m tired. We’re hurt. We’re tired. I think it’s always hard to find the right words as they are as scattered and divided as this country. There’s too much to say, but not nearly enough time or energy to express this sad reality. We’re not all in this together!! How far have we really come? Times change. Calendar dates change, but racism still remains. If we want a better country, we ALL must fight for equality and justice. No one escapes the bonds of injustice. No one! It doesn’t matter what side you’re on. We all lose when we fail to address the root of the problem. Here goes: •


THE PAST STILL LIVES IN THE PRESENT!
This is generational.
It’s not just about death.
It’s about killing our spirits.
It’s about killing our dreams.
It’s about making us feel less than.
It’s about dismissing and ignoring our pain.
It’s about silencing our voice.
It’s about punishing us when we use our voice and labeling us as “angry” or a “threat” rather than acknowledging we’re exercising our “freedom of speech.”
It’s about calling the police and using my skin color against me.
It’s about clinching your purse.
It’s about believing we don’t belong.
It’s about failing to acknowledge and understand my very existence, my pain.
It’s about repeating the sins of the past.
It’s about thinking that skin color affords ones privileges or denies basic human dignity!
It’s about speaking against instead of with our fight for justice.
It’s about remaining silent.
This needs to be everybody’s fight! •


The words “freedom”, “justice,” and “equality” are uttered by many, BUT do we really experience it? No! We have yet to experience it collectively as a nation, and we won’t until we all come together and fight for it… until we’re actually “all in this together.” •


If this makes you uncomfortable, check your privilege. Think of those who lack comfort EVERY! SINGLE!
DAY!

Hinds:

Jones:

“I have loved this country from the day I learned the star spangled banner, to the day I was blessed enough to stand atop the Olympic podium to recite it before the world. But enough is enough. For years I have kept my personal thoughts and convictions to myself. I must stand for what I believe in. As a Black man in America, I have dealt with my share of harassment. As a swimmer, I have always prided myself on breaking stereotypes and being a role model for others to do the same. But I cannot be quiet anymore.

“As a new father, I am continually thinking about how to raise my Indian/Black son, in this America. I don’t want him to have to fear the people who are meant to protect. I don’t want to have to teach him that it is his duty to linguistically disarm those same people by being calm and following directions so that the person with the gun feels more comfortable. Just because of the color of his skin.

“For all creeds, religions, and backgrounds protesting, the hurt is real. But the way we achieve justice is yes action, but through peace, communication and most important, at the polls. I pray for the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of racism. Enough is enough we need to do better for the next generation.”

Neal:

“I love the fact that social media is so powerful that it can bring things to light,” Neal said.

“More people are exposed to these uncomfortable things and happenings. They need to be. I need to be. We need to be in order to do something about it. … We feel so much hate in the world and it is inexcusable. We are being forced to face reality, and the reality is that everything is a mess and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We will get past this. Progress will be made, it is just a really (hard) time right now.”

Olivia Smoliga:

“I’ve been trying to find the right words to say so I’ll just say this: we all lose when one of us loses, that’s what it should feel like. All the repetitive hatred and racial injustice that I see, the anguish our black friends, brothers sisters family feel, should be felt through all of us as we fight for change. We are so quick to look the other way, say it isn’t our problem, focus on all that’s ahead of us on our own path, but it’s up to all of us to speak up and stand for nothing less than justice and love. Because as Americans, as human beings, we should all be in this together. You can make a difference no matter how small. You can start by treating others the way you’d like to be treated. You can educate/donate/check on your black friends.

“I hope we swimmers all recognize that some of, if not the most influential swimmers of our generations have been black. Paving the way for others despite obvious barriers. Inspiring all of us to never give up in the face of adversity. Let us stand in solidarity with our friends, with justice. #blacklivesmatter

Hali Flickinger:

I am angry, I am sad, I am frustrated that we still live in a world where the words “us” and “we” still do not truly have a unified meaning. I wait for a time when these words truly mean and include all human beings no matter the color of skin, but there is no waiting. Change must be done now. I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand. I am determined to be educated. I’m determined to speak out on the injustice and racism that continues to occur in our country. This has to stop and we must be better. I hear you and I’m here for you. #blacklivesmatter

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2 comments

  1. avatar
    Zen

    Black lives do matter, BUT why are the larger multitude black on black deaths not reported and causing protests? One bad officer does NOT mean the other thousands and thousands of officers are the same way. Do you really know what is going on around you?

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

      Zen, for the same reason white on white crimes don’t tend to cause protests: it’s called crime and should be dealt with through the legal systems in place to deal with such things. Meanwhile, the protests are about the rogues in legal enforcement acting illegally and in a racially discriminatory way and the culture that tolerates them. These things are quite separate. Nor it it just about one bad officer. It is about a much wider cultural and societal problem that manifests itself in ways that make black citizens far more likely to be singled out, picked on, treated to excessive force and, yes, tragically, killed, by the very people there to protect them.

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