Despite High Water Temperatures, Asian OWS Championships Marched On

The 7th Asian Open Water Swimming Championships took place at Putrajaya Lake in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Friday, May 19th through Sunday, May 21st. Representing the host nation, 28-year-old Heidi Gan made history by becoming the first swimmer from Malaysia to win a title at the Asian meet. She won the women’s 10k event over Kazakhstan’s Xeniya Romanchuk by approximately 4 minutes.

As notable as Gan’s victory for Malaysia was, the achievement was overshadowed by a more concerning headline. Although the 5k event that took place earlier in the competition went off smooth, by the time the 10k race was slated to kick-off the water had warmed to an alarmingly high temperature 31.9°C (89.42°F).

According to the FINA Open Water Swimming rule 5.5 that was implemented the year after the death of American open water swimmer Fran Crippen, the water temperature of an open water race should be ‘a minimum of 16°C and a maximum of 31°C’ and  should be checked the day of the race, 2 hours before the start, in the middle of the course at a depth of 40 cm.

In Malaysia this past weekend for the 10k race, however, despite the water temperature exceeding FINA’s own limit, Chairman of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee, Ronnie Wong, gave the go-ahead for the race to begin. In response, Team Japan withdrew its 10k swimmers from the race citing concerns over health risks, despite having already won the 5k titles.

The 10k race started at 8am local time, but towards the end of the race, the water temperature was measured at 32°C.

Of the decision to proceed with the race despite the temperature, Steven Munatones, found of the World Open Water Swimming Association, KAATSU Global and KAATSU Research Foundation, stated “Although nothing surprises me anymore in the sport, I really do not understand this decision – especially it places human lives in danger.

“This rule took several months of deliberation by and within FINA to implement – precisely because Fran Crippen died under such conditions. FINA already caused controversy when it decided to move forward with its 25 km race at the 2009 World Championships when the water temperatures exceeded 31°C, but here is another example of a major championship event that demands that its athletes race in extremely warm water.” (Open Water Swimming Daily News)

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Open Water Swimming is to Pool Swimming as Slow Pitch softball is to baseball.




It’s more like bicycling in road races as opposed to the velodrome. It’s harder for spectators to follow, but more interesting. USA swimming moved in the right direction at Castaic Lake by using drones to follow the face. I hope they’ll do that at the world championships.


follow the race, I mean

OW Fan

This is the third year that drones have been used at OW Nationals, beginning with Fort Myers in 2015.


Dolphinlover sounds like you need to stay in the confines of four walls in a pool so the Killer Whales don’t chew you up and spit you out! OW is not for the ordinary pool competitor, you can ask several first time athletes at the 10k or 5k that participated at Castaic Lake, who are podium winners when in a pool how challenging and strategic OW is. Its not for those who find the confine of lane lines and inside swimming there happy place. It requires the ability to be kicked, knocked, run over, stay on course, brave the weather and strategically beat the entire filed all at once. Attempting to compare pool swimming to baseball or softball is a… Read more »


What’s the point of even having the rule if they just ignore it? Was there even an attempt to provide a rationale? It was almost a whole degree over…
Good for Japan for pulling out and protecting their swimmers.


Ronnie Wong one of the officials ( should be Ronnie WRONG) should be held accountable for allowing the Asian Open Water Swimming Championships 10K race to be held in unsafe conditions. Shockingly, Wong served as chairman of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee during the establishment of FINA OWS 5.5.

Accolades to Japan for following the rules!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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