Richard Shoulberg, the coach and mentor to the late Fran Crippen has called on USA Swimming to put its foot down with FINA and demand an explanation and consequences after the 10km events at the Asian Open Water Championships was held in waters off the Malaysian coast at 31.9 degrees Celsius last weekend.
The FINA limit since two inquiries recommended that temperature limits and other race conditions be imposed after American ace Crippen died in a badly flawed FINA world cup event off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2010 has been what pool swimmers covering much shorter distances would consider as a warm 31C (the pool water upper limit for those racing just 50m is 3C cooler).
FINA official Ronnie Wong, who served as chairman of the international federation’s Technical Open Water Swimming Committee when it established rule OWS 5.5 (specifying temperature limits), of giving a thumbs up to the race off Malaysia that was sum in 31.9C, around the same temperatures
Team Japan complained but no-one else did and Wong and other FINA officials dismissed the correct protest of Japan and let the race go on.
Japan proved the hero of the hour, day and Open Water in this latest year of FINA folly: it pulled its entire team from the Asian championships, placing athlete safety over all else.
All of that despite the death of Fran Crippen, followed by the promotion up the FINA ranks of the man in charge on the day and the two inquiry reports that followed before the UAE was handed back its world cup event.
Now, Shoulberg has pressed coach representatives to demand an explanation and consequence.
John Leonard, director of the Wiorld and American Coaches associations WSCA and ASCA responded immediately with a note to FINA director Cornel Marculescu in which he describes events at the Asian Championships “intolerable”. Leonard calls on Marculescu to exercise his conscience and take action.
Shoulberg believes that USA Swimming has not taken “a strong stand with open water since Fran died” but should now demand explanation and on behalf of the late swimmer, his family and teammates, some of whom are still in the swim.
All eyes on USA Swimming’s response. Of late, the federation has been embroiled in FINA politics as a federation that backed incumbent president Julio Maglione and a succession plan that made Husain Al-Musallam the ‘first vice-president’ before he was cited as a “co-conspirator” in a bribery case in which a Guam football official pleaded guilty to receiving almost $1m from what he claims were Kuwaiti officials.
In the week Wong (a member of the Asian Swimming Federation’s Bureau led by a man much in the news of late, Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah) was getting set to hold sway over events at the Asian Championships, the FINA executive was involved in are pressing matters, such as a Swim For Life clinic in Bangkok and private talks in which the leaders of world swimming discussed how to deal with a challenge for the FINA presidency from Italian Paolo Barelli.
The highly paid ‘volunteer executives’ decided to attempt to impose emergency rules before the votes for FINA president and other offices at General Congress in July.
SwimVortex has sent the following email to FINA for response:
Dear Pedro [Adrega, the Press director], another one for the count of unanswered questions.
Could you answer, on behalf of the many swimmers, coaches and other readers who are asking and are among swimming’s leading stakeholders, the following questions:
- did the Asian OW Championships unfold in waters of 31.9C as widely reported?
- if so, why was that allowed to happen and who allowed it to happen given the upper limit imposed in FINA rules when it comes to water temperatures for open water competitions held under FINA rules by your member organisations?
- if what is reported is correct, will FINA be taking disciplinary action against any officials and the Asian Swimming Federation, of which the first vice-president of FINA is a top ranking official?
- assuming the reports are true, will FINA be offering a sincere apology to Fran Crippen’s family, teammates, the Japan national Open Water Team and the wider Open water swimming community?
Many thanks for your attention.