To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing you in regards to Illinois Swimming’s decision not to sanction open water events for the 2011 season. As an avid open water swimmer and the race director of an open water charity swim, I am fully aware of the unique safety considerations for an open water swim, particularly swims involving children. I am also fully aware of the recent attention being paid to making open water swims as safe as possible, due to a string of incidents, including the incident that claimed the life of US Open Water National Team member Fran Crippen.
While I think that a step back to examine the situation and focus on improving the safety of our open water swimming competitions is a necessary step, I sincerely hope that your policy to not sanction open water events is a temporary one and that you will, in the future, begin sanctioning open water events again, once you are satisfied that your requirements for sanctioning insure a safe environment for our young athletes to participate in.
In 1996, at the age of ten, I competed in my first open water swim on a whim at a Zone Championship meet in Oxford, Ohio. That day I learned that I was quite good in a sport that until that moment, I had never even heard of, and it shaped my life in the years to come. Year after year I competed in open water as much as I could, which in Indiana ended up being only once or twice a year. Luckily for me, I felt compelled to travel at great lengths to find bigger and greater challenges, and on August 10, 2010, I became the 39th person in the world to complete the “Triple Crown” of open water swimming, consisting of the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, and the Manhattan Island Marathon swim. I have since relocated to Southern California where I am focusing on my training and preparing myself for even greater challenges, while introducing as many people as possible to the sport that has given me so much.
As you can see, that ¼ mile open water swim ended up shaping the next fifteen years of my life, and will continue to do so. It is my sincere hope that we work toward offering more opportunities for young athletes to be introduced to open water swimming, not less.