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Timing Of FINA Flip-Flop Renders LEN Legless

Jun 28, 2009  - Craig Lord

It came with an apology, something that those who run FINA might wish to take on board, but the letter sent out on the effective eve of the European junior championships by LEN, the European Swimming League, has sent the hearts of parents and coaches sinking, and sent swimmers who cannot get hold of this suit or that suit into a spin. 

All fast-suit madness will be allowed, contrary to a statement put out by LEN just last Wednesday. The reason: not because it is the right thing to do but because an earlier decision was taken in ignorance BEFORE FINA's decisions of May 19 and June 19. May all heads hang in shame among those responsible for leading the sport of swimming into the mire that it now finds itself in.

The LEN letter in full:

Dear Friends, 

On June 24th an erroneous communication was sent out from LEN Office concerning swimsuit use at the European Junior Swimming Championships to be held in Prague (CZE) from 8 to 12 July. 

Unfortunately this correspondence ignored the LEN Bureau decision taken in Chania (GRE) on May 16th which was made public through a LEN Press Release dated May 29th stating: 

  • LEN follows FINA Rules and Regulations (LEN General Event Rule E 1.2) and will therefore prohibit the use of new generation swimsuits that are not on FINA’s regularly updated list of approved models at LEN Events. 

Therefore, the latest published list (FINA PR46, June 22nd) of approved swimsuits will be respected at all LEN Events (including Open Water Swimming events) until further notice from FINA.  

We apologise for the confusion incurred.  Sincerely, 

Nory Krutchen, LEN President.

And here is where we find the hearts and minds of parents watching events at German nationals in Berlin today:

"One day before age group champs in Germany the federation brought in its new rules excluding Jaked/B70 etc. The impact on the swimmers and their parents was immense! Those who could afford bought the LZR or the Arena Re-evolution: the swimshop did huge business in the 2 hrs before champioship start! Ok up till here?

Let's look at the other side ... my son ... [material removed to protect the identity of the athlete] lost his [X, suit] ... all he had left was old stuff from 2007 in which he swam. It did not matter what you said to him or how you tried to boost his moral: none of it worked. He swam actually quite well but in my opinion was mentally done in before his first race.

At this point in this discourse [parent listens to a video of the coach of an Olympic champion that could not get hold of a Speedo LZR Racer  until he got to Beijing, why that was a huge relief, how it might have cost the swimmer the Olympic crown had he not got into the suit and so on and so forth...].

This is where we really, I think, do not want to go to in swimming! And this has been caused because no-one wanted to stop the glory - when if we had had the balls to do so and enforced the availablity rule a lot of this could have been stopped.

I am hearing voices muttering that we will need to keep the suits or what are we going to do in the future as swimming would become "boring". Dirk Lange [head coach to Germany] is muttering - after seeing a few swimmers get the hard qualifying times that he and L.Buschkow set - that it is not so bad. Of course it is not (because now the Germans may wear what they want which was not the case as they were putting in their petition at SC european champs) as long as everyone has the same weapons ... another point that has never been reached as the suits have evolved ... as you said the Speedo teams will be mentally at a disadvantage stepping up against the Jaked and the arena new suits or the Hydrofoil or in the interest of expediency and their own glory will let their swimmers swim in whatever they want to."

The letter expresses the view held by many: the "evolution" will go on ad nauseum and prices will rise further to cover the rising costs of research in the next thing that allows a suit maker to claim, as Speedo still does, that it has "the world's fastest suit". Not the world's fastest swimmer, we note. All of which adds up to one key factor for the parents of young swimmers and those trying to select young talent for youth programmes, early fast-tracking and funding: debilitating cost and loss of great talent to the sport.

The parent continues: "... I know I cannot afford to keep my son in the water if this keeps going on ... he has been swimming since the age of 6 and his dream of getting to the Olympics is being destroyed right now as I am sure are many others.

One of the most compelling reasons for keeping the suits as they are in length is of course the cost! Will any manufacturer want to sell a high tech jammer or womans suit basic for 100 euro's when he can get between 400-500 right now ... I think not

When the new rules come out will they reflect a "Solution for the swimmers" I hope so but fear not! The old people sitting at the top of the individual  federations are looking after themselves and their interests and are sometimes too far removed from the grassroots. Keep fighting!"

It would be impossible to run every letter that we receive on this subject. A great many from parents around the world echo the above. Time for federations to stop talking to suit makers about what they would like to see and start talking to swimmers and parents and coaches about what is desirable, sensible and sustainable and what might lead the sport back to a place where the efforts of all parties, the swimmer above all, can be appreciated in their own light, free of the shadow of any suit that skews performance and demands the limelight.