Katinka Hosszu Launches Pro Swimmers Union

If you scoffed when Katinka Hosszu said she wanted to create a professional swimmers’ union, it’s time to reconsider.  Today, Hosszu revealed a list of professional swimmers from around the globe that have joined the newly-minted Global Association of Professional Swimmers (GAPS).

GAPS’s goals are seemingly simple: FINA needs to “listen to the voice of the professional swimmers” and allow swimmers to “have a say in important decisions about the future of our sport.”  Though recent decisions by FINA suggest athletes have not been consulted regarding decisions that influence their own livelihoods and ability to earn a living in a sport that is notorious for only being famous ‘once-every-four-years.’

Earlier this summer, FINA announced drastic and controversial rule changes to the World Cup circuit that left the international swimming community angry and confused.  Hosszu wrote adamantly that she was never consulted when the new rules were proposed.  Surprising, since Hosszu is one of the most famous swimmers in the world, and in the post-Phelps era, one of the most profitable athletes in the sport.

In her previous open letter, Hosszu, speaking on FINA’s leadership, said “our leaders seem to think our sport is amateur, therefore we are amateurs, and that is exactly the way they treat us.”  Referencing the Association of Professional Tennis Players (ATP) boycott of Wimbledon 1973, Hosszu believes it is time swimmers unified in the same manner to give athletes a more equal share of the profits garnered by FINA and other broadcasters of swimming events.

Joining Hosszu in GAPS are Olympic gold medalists and world record holders from around the globe.  Adam Peaty, Sarah Sjostrom, Bronte Campbell and Cate Campbell, Kosuke Hagino, Cameron Van Der Burgh, Marco Koch, Conor Dwyer, Katie Meili, and Lia Neal, among others, have joined Hosszu in GAPS.

With the FINA World Championships beginning in less than three weeks in Hosszu’s very own Hungary, it will be interesting to see what noise the newly-formed GAPS makes during the event, and whether the group can have a voice in the upcoming FINA election set to take place July 22nd.

Below is the list of swimmers that have already joined GAPS, as well as Hosszu’s accompanying open letter.

Dear Fellow Swimmers,Many things can change in sports in a span of two weeks, not only races and championships, but…

Posted by Katinka Hosszu on Monday, July 3, 2017


GAPS members:

Jessica Ashwood, Australia
Bronte Campbell, Australia
Cate Campbell, Australia
Madison Wilson, Australia
Pieter Timmers, Belgium
Bruno Fratus, Brazil
Hilary Caldwell, Canada
Pernille Blume, Denmark
Jeanette Ottesen, Denmark
Rikke Pedersen, Denmark
Camille Lacourt, France
Anna Santamans, France
Marco Koch, Germany
James Guy, Great Britain
Adam Peaty, Great Britain
Katinka Hosszu, Hungary
Luca Dotto, Italy
Kosuke Hagino, Japan
Femke Heemskerk, Netherlands
Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Netherlands
Kira Toussaint, Netherlands
Sharon Van Rouwendaal, Netherlands
Ferry Weertman, Netherlands
Michelle Coleman, Sweden
Jennie Johansson, Sweden
Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden
Cameron Van Der Burgh, South Africa
Conor Dwyer, USA
Katie Meili, USA
Lia Neal, USA

Hosszu’s open letter following the announcement of GAPS reads:

“Dear Fellow Swimmers,

Many things can change in sports in a span of two weeks, not only races and championships, but careers as well. In Rio it took roughly a week to award all the medals of the Olympic swimming competition, and the same will happen in the World Championships this year in Budapest.

In the last two weeks I’ve learnt an important lesson: this amount of time could be enough for an entire sport to start heading into a completely new direction. I was hoping that my last letter would have a light bulb effect for many of you, but even I underestimated the rate at which everything would happen. I do not mean the fact that the press would quickly jump on the topic, or that many people who were never interested in swimming will start asking questions about the sport, but I mean the speed and ease at which all of us, the swimmers, have started to come together as one.

As I believed, many of us were on the same page, well aware of the problems of today’s swimming. We had the same way of thinking when it came down to finding solutions to those issues. Even if we had remained silent until now, most of us were not only ready to openly talk about the problems, but ready to act in order to reform the sport of swimming, even if those changes might be against our own personal interests. This whole movement has immediately eliminated many of our dividing lines, with different nationalities, languages, time-zones and cultures all coming together as one.

We are proud to announce that with more than 30 members, including 15 Olympic champions, the Global Association of Professional Swimmers (GAPS) is coming to life today, with its members already representing all the continents of the globe.

Our goal is to have more members and to listen to all of you. GAPS will make it possible for us to jointly represent the interest of the professional swimmers, to have a clear view on what is happening today in the sport of swimming, and to have a chance to influence the future development of our sport.

We now rightfully expect that leaders of FINA will give us a seat at the table. We expect swimmers to be treated as equal partners. We expect that they will sit down and start talking to us. We expect that they will listen to the voice of the professional swimmers and we expect to have a say in important decisions about the future of our sport.

You can join and share your opinion with us on http://professionalswimmers.org. And when the time comes, we will be able to represent the best interests of the entire professional swimming community as one.”

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dying Breed
6 years ago

There should be much more to this organization than just FINA rules around the World Cup and making money. A good model to start with should be Track and Field Athletic Association (http://www.trackfieldaa.com/about/). They have taken strong stands on doping and branding. Certainly, open water should be well represented after what happened with Fran Crippen in 2010. It will be interesting. FINA doesn’t have any where near as many fans as GAPS. Then again GAPS isn’t in the OBN (Old Boys Network).

7 years ago

They should pressure FINA to modify the published interpretation of the freestyle turn during the IM

Outside the Bubble
7 years ago

I really wish someone a lot more qualified than myself could actually do a breakdown of the business model of FINA and the income profit centers the Pros and Collegians enjoy. This has to include corporate endorsements like Arena, Speedo UA TYR. Also corporate sponsorships. USA stipends and Collegiate Grants in Aid. And government subsidies.
The ONE thing that Swimming hangs its hat on IS performance. always have and always will.
They are always pushing their personal best.
So there are a handful of swimmers that garnish some big time money.
Without major TV contracts to fund the sport they sport is always in flux. What’s the cut from the new NBC Olympic Channel?
This… Read more »

Reply to  Outside the Bubble
7 years ago


Thats the FINA financial statement from their website. Doesnt tell you much.

Steve Nolan
7 years ago

This is actually pretty interesting, especially given how “Olympics or bust” an athlete’s earning potential is.

Reply to  Steve Nolan
7 years ago

Yes, and FINA cannot necessarily depend on IOC being unreservedly in their corner. They learned over 40 years ago that amateurism was not sustainable and managed to transition to primarily professional or “lets have the best compete wherever possible”. Some of these institutional parties/sponsors are also strongly interlinked with other major sports (most swim brands are actually divisions of larger brands) and the IOC themselves. Gravely flawed institution that it is, the modern IOC is a very pragmatic lot and will “cut adrift” those who are harming the name/proving an embarrasment and will deal with ‘reform parties” in various sports/fields if they see its in their own best interests. One would think their advice to Sr Maglione (if he is… Read more »

Reply to  commonwombat
7 years ago

Surely The IOC has more important stuff on the horizon e.g. the 2018 games in Pyeonchang or somewhere just 7 months away .

7 years ago

The only thing they need to do is boycott a few meets. Once the networks feel the pain of the major athletes not attending and no one turning in to watch – FINA will accept their input. By the way, the other major item that needs to change is choosing of finalists for major meets. it should go back to prelims and top eight go to finals. 3 rounds of swimming creates mediocre times and a lack of new blood in the sport.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Washedup
7 years ago

What is the justification for 3 rounds? Before this recent US Nationals, I’d never really considered it.

Joe Bagodonuts Jr.
Reply to  Washedup
7 years ago

Don’t overestimate the market value. I love the sport, but, at least in America, most tune in every 4 years and satiate their enjoyment of watching. Outside of that, I’m not sure the general public is clamoring for televised meets.

Reply to  Joe Bagodonuts Jr.
7 years ago

Joe – I won’t watch an Arena meet if no one recognizable is swimming it. During 2015-16 when certain Arena meets were being used for tuneups to the Olympics and the stars of the sport were more likely to participate, I was much more likely to watch the full meet and especially certain events (i.e. Phelps in the IM or Ledecky swimming distance).

Green Acres
7 years ago

Looking forward to seeing what comes from this. Amazing initiative from the athletes, leading by example! You wonder why nothing has been done by any coaches before…

7 years ago

Yes and No. It could play out as you portray OR it could be the case that the equipment providers are/get onside with their contracted swimmers. One of the key components that CAN bring down the existing FINA regime is if/when institutional parties (such as equipment manufacturers/timing/media) start getting twitchy and threaten disinvestment/demand changes. In the corporate world, its the institutional investors whom the board is generally most wary of ….. and perhaps whom Maglione/Marculescu should be scared of

Joe Bagodonuts Jr.
Reply to  commonwombat
7 years ago

Are you referring to the “institutional investors” who own the shares of the entity/company and elect the Board of Directors? How dare the owners seek to control things!?! What a concept.

7 years ago

This is great and all…but what if Speedo and other sponsors begin to include clauses in their contracts that forbid them from joining unions? After all, GAPS could eventually be a threat to them even if it has its sight set on FINA at the moment

Reply to  iLikePsych
7 years ago

I’m reasonably certain that, in the U.S., it is illegal to prevent an employee or independent contractor from participating in a union, though union rights for independent contractors are weaker than for employees. I think athletes with endorsement contracts are classified as independent contractors.

Joe Bagodonuts Jr.
Reply to  Cbf
7 years ago

But, you raise the $1B question: Which nation’s laws will govern the unionization? Everyone is just assuming there’s some sort of global law on labor organizing – but, that is not true.

Reply to  iLikePsych
7 years ago

That’s highly unlikely. Companies like UA, Nike, Adidas have no problem with players being a part of the NFLPA or NBPA

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six with the Clay Center Tiger Sharks, a summer league team. At age 14 he began swimming club year-round with the Manhattan Marlins (Manhattan, KS), which took some convincing from his mother as he was very …

Read More »