There are several swimming committees across the nation, and it is
the chairman’s job to lead every committee into keeping the
sport as safe as possible going forward.
Saluki Swimming Coach Rick Walker has once again been named
chairman of one of those organizations, the Open Water Development
Committee, for 2014.
Walker was the first member selected to the committee and has been
named the chairman every year the committee has been in place.
The committee was put in place when former University of Virginia
swimmer, Francis Crippen drowned in an open water swim meet 500
meters from the finish Oct. 23, 2010 in the United Arab Emirates.
Walker said everyone involved wanted to make sure that would not
Saluki Swimming Coach Rick Walker watches a race Thursday at the
Edward J. Shea Natatorium. USA Swimming President Bruce
recently named Walker chairman of the Open Water Development
Committee. Walker said the committee’s goal is to keep open
swimming safe by applying pressure to implement safety guidelines
for the athletes worldwide.
SARAH SCHNEIDER | DAILY EGYPTIAN
“The committee was implemented after the death of Fran
Crippen,” Walker said. “He was someone who I admired
and cared for deeply and worked with before.”
According to an ESPN.com article that anounced Crippen’s
death, the temperature of the water was mid-to-high 80’s and
several swimmers were treated for heat exhaustion after the race.
The article also said swimmers were the first ones to respond when
Crippen did not show up on the shore. The swimmers went back in the
water before everyone else arrived to search for him.
The committee currently consists of nine members and Walker said
every year the President of USA Swimming, Bruce Stratton, appoints
the chairman of every swimming committee across the nation.
Walker said the committee is tremendously important to open water
“I think it means the world to the sport,” Walker said.
“Our biggest issue is that we can make everything really safe
here in the U.S, but the second our national team swimmers leave
the borders, what are other federations doing to keep the sport
Walker’s goal as chairman is to spread awareness and make
sure the same rules USA Swimming use are spread across the world to
make things safer elsewhere.
“Part of what we try to do within our committee is to apply
pressure to other federations around the world to implement the
same safety guidelines to look after the athletes,”
Open water differs from pool swimming in several ways. Not
only is nature unable to be regulated, but swimmers do not have
their own lane. Graduate Assistant Coach Michael Firth said
there are more things that can go wrong in open water meets.
“With open water events there are a lot of things that can
happen,” Firth said. “With open water stuff, if
something does happen, there has to be protocols for quick and
efficient safety procedures.”
Firth has never competed in a strictly open water swim race, but he
has swum open water in triathlons. He said it is completely
different than lane swimming because swimmers have to make sure
they are on route and avoid other swimmers’ kicks.
Senior Pamela Benitez has swum in both pool and open water events
and said the committee plays a role in keeping the sport
safe. She said each swimmer should do a warm up and test the
body of water beforehand and be alert of the environment at all
“They have to check the temperature of the water,”
Benitez said. “They have to make a recognition of the
area and measure certain things like the wind.”
Benitez said she is honored Walker is her coach, and she is proud
that he is the chairman of the committee.
“I did not know before coming here he was such a great
coach,” Benitez said. “Being a part of USA
Swimming is such an amazing thing in the swimming world. I know he
knows a lot about open water, and I respect that a lot.”
Aaron Graff can be contacted at