Who Earns the Title 'Channel Swimmer'?

edited February 2013 in General Discussion
Somebody linked me to this article this morning:
http://dailynews.openwaterswimming.com/2013/01/fit-for-king-but-not-for-channel.html

Clearly, we can see from the other media articles that a whole lot o' journalists really do buy anything you throw their way...which upsets me given that was my first chosen profession! (Not to mention that 2012 included a very honourable mix of 'Real Women' who not only swam the Channel within the stated rules, but also raised thousands for charity.)

What irked me about this whole thing wasn't really the wetsuit, nor was it the fact that she wore fins (which none of the articles mentions, but what CSPF President Nick Adams states is written on her observer's report), but that she called herself a Channel Swimmer, after doing her swim using all of these things.

Personally, I would never call myself something that I had not actually achieved... I believe that people earn their accomplishments, hopefully in a manner that is dignified and fair. I feel the Channel Swimming community is one of the most dignified and fair groups in the world, and being a part of such a group is a source of great pride in my own personal life.

What do you think?
«1

Comments

  • I had this discussion last year about someone who was calling themselves a Channel swimmer prior even to the attempt. (The person lasted three hours as I recall). I have also seen people who were only one of a 6 person one-way relay call themselves Channel swimmers. I haven't said anything to them, I guess it doesn't matter that much to me beyond the initial annoyance, we all know who we are, and I think in most cases we are the people they'll never use that title with.

    @JGal, I think we agree on this. I always define Channel Swimmer as someone who has completed a solo, under traditional rules, (and it's the appellation I most appreciate and respect).

    Someone calling themselves a Channel Swimmer, while not having achieved the title in the same manner as the rest of us, is just deluding themselves.
  • The beauty of the channel is that it has standards. It's a test. If you cheat on a test, you don't pass. It's simple. You can't rollerblade a marathon and call yourself a marathon runner. You can't swim the channel in a wetsuit and call yourself a channel swimmer. It's simple.

    I agree with @LoneSwimmer on the relay thing too.
  • Totally get ya, @loneswimmer. However, she DID swim the channel...in a sense that she started in Dover and ended in France. (I don't know how she got on a wetsuit in the middle of the channel without drying off, but she must have since the swim continued...)

    So technically, she did swim the channel. And, given the wetsuit and fins she utilized on her attempt, she was planning to get across the channel using these aids.

    I'll probably make enemies saying this, but part of me wishes that attempting the Channel means following the stated rules (except those who qualify for the special swim category), and that the second those rules are breached, the swim ends. In other sports, this is the case. In a triathlon, I'd probably be a way better finisher if I could do the bike first. In pool swimming, I'd place higher if I could leave 10 seconds before the rest of the field. No marathon allows rollerbladers...I could go on. I feel that in other sports, we all know the general rules, and when people cheat, we immediately understand that they have done so. But this is a perfect example of somebody taking advantage of the general vagueness that surrounds our endeavour... which is the source of my frustration.

  • @jgal- I think you're preaching to the choir on this one! I read the original article in Shape online a few days ago, and I think steam was coming out of my ears. So many people work SO hard for a real English Channel crossing, and people like this dilute the significance and honor of those of us who follow the rules. Many people have tried several times before success, and to have someone out there saying "I got cold, so I put on a wetsuit, just so I could finish and call myself a Channel swimmer" is a huge slap in the face to people who have put in the true training and sacrificed for a dream. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like this out there, who are after publicity and fame. (And I'm not trying to insult people who have done amazing, challenging swims with a wetsuit- as long as they say, "I wore a wetsuit" and were transparent about what they did, unlike the girl in the article above.)

    I'm not sure what we can do as a community to debunk them, publicly. I've always thought we should just ignore them and go on- we know the truth about them and ourselves. But, I've been getting more fired up about stuff like this lately. Ideas anyone?
  • I don't think this is a federation v federation issue...but more of a general, If a swimmer embarks upon doing a swim the traditional way, should they be able to switch to assisted once they realise the Channel is not as expected? And why do assisted swims exist - is it a money thing? I mean, no other 'endurance sport' (to my knowledge) allows somebody to alter the rules so that it works on their terms... you either follow the rules, or you don't.
  • @loneswimmer I agree, and I said above that those who qualify for the special swim category are 100% channel swimmers if they make it across. (and heroes!)

    What I cannot see in my head why somebody who is totally able-bodied desires to cross the channel if they are going to use assistance to get there, if only to garner adoration from people who don't know any better?...Why does our sport enable this?

  • Then you've answered my question... no body has ratified (and would ratify) her swim, yet she calls herself a Channel Swimmer, and media portrays her as such. Therefore, both are incorrect and it makes me wonder why there's not more public outcry as a result!
  • edited January 2013

    @Haydn It just seems simpler to me to have the CSA ratify traditional swimmers only, therefore retaining integrity and the CS&PF ratifying as many versions as they seek.

    What do you try to imply here? Like @Loneswimmer I think that you don't take the CS&PF serious as ratifying organization.
    Sorry but I have more problems with the CSA policy.

    Concerning the original topic. Yes she swam the Channel and thus is a Channel swimmer. Only should mention in the same breath that she did it with wetsuit and flippers.

    In the original article on http://www.shape.com/blogs/shape-your-life/motivation-monday-meet-woman-who-swam-english-channel : SHAPE: What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced during the swim?
    King: Physically, I suffered from seasickness. My throat was raw. There were jellyfish in the water, and it was really hard to float on my back during feedings. I couldn't touch my pilot, who was in a boat alongside me, so he would toss me food for a "feeding," and I'd have to eat it while treading water.

    Another hard part was when the sun set. I asked my pilot, "How much longer do we have to go?" and he told me we still had more than three hours, and my heart just sank. I thought something was going to eat me! But apparently when I'm scared, I get faster. I was later told that I sped up and passed a couple of other people.

    It was also hard being by myself. When you're in the water, it's just you and your body, and if the current pushes you six miles in a different direction, you can end up swimming much more than the 22 miles. Physically, I felt so alone, even though I had an overwhelming amount of support from friends and family back home.
    No mention of cold!

    She's just another Diana with her bragging about her 'Channel swim'
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • Incidentally, here is Brittany King's blog post about her English Channel swim crossing:

    http://swimvet.blogspot.com/2012/09/swimming-across-english-channel.html
  • Did I miss the part where she talked about the fins she used? If you doubt she used fins look at the comments from her Shape Magazine article. Did she begin with fins or put them on along with the wetsuit?
    Odd, I have read previous postings prior to her swim in which she stated she had no need to train in Dover Harbor and was going to do a bit of traveling before her swim. It is all so confusing as she changes the 'facts' from one blog to the next. All very strange.
  • In my humble opinion, I agree with @mrfinbarr in that you can call yourself whatever you want. People will either believe you or they won't. The fact is that, outside of this community, very few people have the slightest clue what Channel swimming is all about. So who cares whether they believe her or not?

    However, I do think that the media ought to inform themselves better and report objectively on all swims. They are notorious for getting very important details wrong and even reporting on swims that never even took place! To me, this is just more proof the general ignorance surrounding the sport.

    I'm not going to get into the CSA versus CS&PF argument because, quite frankly, it's just pathetic. But I would like to say that a good friend of mine put in an enormous amount of training for a "traditional" Channel swim, but found that he just could not cope with the cold, so he made a decision about a month before the swim that he would forfeit official recognition and do the swim in a wetsuit, while following all of the other rules. He had a big personal goal and, in my view, far be it from anyone to deny him the chance to fulfill it...
    http://fermoyfish.com – Owen O'Keefe (Fermoy, Ireland)
  • And because of the CS&PF he was allowed to do just that. 20 years ago he would have been forbidden. That is not a pathetic argument.
  • edited January 2013
    In some ways, we only have ourselves to blame for this. By that I mean that since there is no international coordinating organization with established rules for marathon swims, both media and "swimmers" can pretty much cherry pick the rules and who can gainsay them? Even though the two English Channel Organizations DO have rules for recognizing swims as legit, since they sanction other types of swims it allows people to say "My swim with fins/wetsuit/paddles/whatever was sanctioned by the X organization" and people/reporters will take that at face value. In a sense, why shouldn't they? This woman's crossing was not particularly notable (like a world record) to the casual observer or a reporter just trying to write a human interest piece, so it wouldn't seem to call for investigative journalism or even much skepticism.

    It's pretty similar to what happens in mountaineering: "Susie Smith Climbs Everest!" They don't say that she paid $75,000 for a guided climb and had 10 personal Sherpas dragging her - literally - up the mountain. (H.G. Wells wrote a funny story 100-ish years ago relating to this: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web07-08w/wfeature-hg-wells-little-mother-morderburg )

    Let her call herself whatever she likes. In a few short years her swim will be forgotten.

    -LBJ
    "Ordinarily he is insane, but he has lucid moments when he is only stupid." - Heinrich Heine
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013
    Where exactly did Brittany King call herself a 'Channel Swimmer', or claim that 'title', either in caps or lowercase?
  • edited January 2013
    said:

    Where exactly did Brittany King call herself a 'Channel Swimmer', or claim that 'title', either in caps or lowercase?

    @oxo, So the semantic distinction between "I am a channel swimmer" and "I swam the English Channel" is an important one to you?
    image
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013
    @evmo - before I go on, just to be clear, is that the closest she came to "claiming the title of 'Channel Swimmer'" ... anybody?
  • I don't know, @oxo, I didn't choose the title of this thread. Ask the OP. My point is that the reason people seem to be irritated with her isn't her use (or non-use) of the specific phrase "channel swimmer." It's more about the deceptive promotional tactic of describing the immense challenges and strict rules of swimming the English Channel, while downplaying the fact that she didn't actually follow these rules.

    If anything, the phrase "I swam the English Channel" seems even less appropriate than "claiming the title of 'channel swimmer,'" because it is more specific. A Catalina or Santa Barbara Channel swimmer could accurately describe themselves as a "channel swimmer," even if they had never swum the English Channel.
  • edited January 2013
    She has also misled her charity. I wonder if she got support from that charity for the swim, like perhaps they helped pay her piloting fees?
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013
    @evmo - well, that is my (earnest) question: Where exactly did Brittany King call herself a 'Channel Swimmer', or claim that 'title', either in caps or lowercase?

    I'll wait for a reply from @jgal or others.

    Do you think Brittany King actually said the words "I swam the English Channel" to author, Alanna Nuñez? Maybe she did, but I can't think of a context for King to say that to Nuñez.
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    She has also misled her charity.

    What is your source?
  • edited January 2013
    @oxo, she says some things on her blog:

    "Most US Channel swimmers are from California or northern states and have easy access to the preparatory cold water conditions."
    "Even if I hadn't swam [sic] the Channel..."
    "Has my life changed since swimming the channel?"
  • edited January 2013
    said:

    She has also misled her charity.

    What is your source?
    My source is the Banfield Trust's page where they asked her "How are you preparing?" and she answered: "Twenty-two miles in 55 degree water without a wetsuit is quite daunting..." That right there tells me that she told the charity, and in turn the charity told potential donors reading the site that she would follow channel rules as we understand it.

    http://www.banfieldcharitabletrust.org/lapsoflove/
  • Isn't there a risk of taking this too seriously? She did a swim of some description and got some PR in a TV puff piece and a couple of fluffy, superficial diet-obsessed magazines designed to make women hate their bodies. It seems to me that the sport of Channel swimming can rest easily tonight. I'm more concerned by the fact that her dog has a sweater on - clothes on animals gives me the creeps.
  • said:

    well, that is my (earnest) question: Where exactly did Brittany King call herself a 'Channel Swimmer', or claim that 'title', either in caps or lowercase?

    "I swam the Channel" == "I am a swimmer of the Channel" == "I am a Channel swimmer"

    Yawn.
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    "I swam the Channel" == "I am a swimmer of the Channel" == "I am a Channel swimmer"

    ah, == because you said so, LOL
  • said:

    ah, == because you said so, LOL

    I'd be happy to entertain another perspective on this, @oxo, but so far I haven't heard one from you? LOL
  • Personal feud between fellow Texans?
  • edited January 2013
    The comments on the Shape article, most of which pre-date @jgal's posting here, would seem to indicate otherwise. Not to mention the fact that even @Munatones found her behavior objectionable enough to go against his typical policy of never writing anything negative in the DNOWS.
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013
    said:

    said:

    She has also misled her charity.

    What is your source?
    My source is the Banfield Trust's page where they asked her "How are you preparing?" and she answered: "Twenty-two miles in 55 degree water without a wetsuit is quite daunting..." That right there tells me that she told the charity, and in turn the charity told potential donors reading the site that she would follow channel rules as we understand it.

    http://www.banfieldcharitabletrust.org/lapsoflove/
    You are reading into it. Regardless, there was a swimmer this past year who fundraised and trained for a regulation EC, but then attempted it (did not finish) in a wetsuit. Did that swimmer also mislead their charity and donors?

  • @oxo, I don't know about that swimmer as I haven't seen any press on him/her.

    My thought: If you put a wetsuit and fins on the boat, you were planning on putting them on at some point, thus you should have described your swim as an adventure swim or special swim or whatever.
  • The comments on the Shape article, most of which pre-date @jgal's posting here, would seem to indicate otherwise.

    I'm not following you on how the dates of comments argue against feud.


    Not to mention the fact that even @Munatones found her behavior objectionable enough to go against his typical policy of never writing anything negative in the DNOWS.

    DNOWS is a hype site.
  • edited January 2013
    said:

    I'm not following you on how the dates of comments argue against feud.

    Because people were discussing it long before @jgal posted here. But I'm not following on why it would be relevant even if it were true.

    Perhaps @jgal can chime in here and put this silly fascinating theory to rest.
    said:

    DNOWS is a hype site.

    Which is why the article was notable.
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    I don't know about that swimmer as I haven't seen any press on him/her.

    You do know about that swimmer. Think.

    My thought: If you put a wetsuit and fins on the boat, you were planning on putting them on at some point, thus you should have described your swim as an adventure swim or special swim or whatever.

    Your argument comes down to this. All the fundraising that is done on unsuccessful EC attempts must be returned.
  • edited January 2013
    said:

    I don't know about that swimmer as I haven't seen any press on him/her.

    You do know about that swimmer. Think.
    It's a trap, Mike! :)
  • In hindsight, I wish had some received some publicity - I'm now broke and probably will be for quite some time! :((

    But then again, I think that excessive publicity / media coverage can set you up for a really big fall.
  • I think she is correct to say she swam the English Channel, but wrong to imply that by saying such, people think she obeyed the rules. Saying " I swam the English Channel, assisted" would be more accurate.

    It is the traditional swimmers, who would expect greater accuracy. The problem is we, the swimmers, have accepted the governing bodies in their extending permissions to swim the channel anyway we request. Whether our swims are ratified or not as traditional swims, we have nevertheless swam in accordance with their rules.

    This is why on one hand, I would prefer a return to the old rules only. But accept the great opportunity relaxing the rules enable other swimmers (as this one did), not to get out early , but to carry on in wetsuits and fins? So now, even non swimmers , triathletes and good swimmers (but not quite good enough), can get across.

    We have allowed this evolution to occur. I believe opening the channel to more people is on balance, the better position. It's just the swimmers being a little elusive with how they managed it, that needs addressing.
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    But I'm not following on why it would be relevant even if it were true.

    So, are you saying that this thread is really about EC hardcores not being satisfied with what they've accomplished?
  • edited January 2013
    @OXO: I would say at this point you won't see her making the claim but had you been following her blogs and media prior to the swim you would have seen her saying she was following all of the rules, explicitly pointing out the bathing suit only rule. Problem is she says one thing and does another and to this day as far as I can see still has not owned up to wearing fins.
  • edited January 2013

    My thought: If you put a wetsuit and fins on the boat, you were planning on putting them on at some point, thus you should have described your swim as an adventure swim or special swim or whatever.

    Your argument comes down to this. All the fundraising that is done on unsuccessful EC attempts must be returned.

    No, my argument is if you never intended on swimming by EC rules, state that up front. You would get a donation from me if you say you're going to cross America by foot than if you say you're going to cross America by foot, unless you get cold or tired, then you'll jump in a car for part of it.

    And no, I would still donate (wouldn't ask for it back in other words) if the guy attempting to walk across America only made it part way then had to quit. He at least attempted it AND stuck to the rules he set up.
  • OK, i will now shut up. I just finished reading Nick's comment. ;)
  • edited January 2013
    For 'CSA vs CS&PF' related comments (not related to @jgal's original post re: Brittany King), please use this thread:

    http://www.marathonswimmers.org/forum/discussion/345/csa-cspf
  • jaysus, one goes off to do a bit o work and this happens! For the record, I went with CSPF for the sole reason that one Ned Denison recommended a few pilots and I, being a mere 21 year old with a 5k on my longest swim record books, blindly followed his advice! (Which was great advice, thanks Ned.)

    Texans would be nothing but proud of other Texans for making the swim. Y'all don't know this, but we have an even more exclusive group within the Channel Swimmers' community - the Texan Channel Swimmers group! So there's no feuding there! (Non-Native Texans need not apply!)

    Again, from the first post, I said I have no issue with people using all the aids that their hearts desire if they wish. I simply take issue with the usage of the title Channel Swimmer, which I feel is an honour only those who successfully complete the swim, within the rules, deserve. Maybe it's an ethical thing. Clearly we all have freedom of speech. But the more people count themselves part of this group when the reality states otherwise, the more the public becomes misguided on what we're about as a community of EC swimmers.

    I don't go around calling myself an Olympian or any other title that I have not earned the right to call myself. I know many Olympians, and they have earned the right to call themselves that (and I have an overflowing amount of awe at their success) just as I have earned the right to call myself a Channel Swimmer (or doctor, or professor, or whatever title I'm feelin on the day.) THAT'S my sole issue...not the CSA, or whether or not somebody is Texan or not, or if they raised more money for charity, or anything else. Webb said it best: Nothing Great is Easy. Let's keep it that way.
  • edited January 2013
    @oxo: Despite the White Horse pub being closed at the time Brittany signed her name on the exterior of the building. This was documented by Mike Oram when he chastised all those people that were illegally defacing the exterior of the White Horse pub. I don't know about you but to me when you sign your name at the White Horse Pub you are stating that you did a certified crossing if the EC.

    image

    image
  • @firebah and the royal oak! total legend of a pub!
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    No, my argument is if you never intended on swimming by EC rules, state that up front.

    I agree, to do otherwise is deceptive. However, I do not know one way or another if Brittany King 'never intended on swimming by EC rules'. Earnest question: what is your source that she 'never intended on swimming by EC rules'?

    If the guy attempting to walk across America only made it part way then had to quit. He at least attempted it AND stuck to the rules he set up.

    Brittany King apparently did just that. She started made it part way then had to quit. She then got on the boat, put on a wetsuit etc, then got into the water to finish the swim.
  • edited January 2013

    @oxo She then got on the boat

    I haven't read that anywhere. Only that she had continued with wetsuit.
    No you're making a conclusion.
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    Texans would be nothing but proud of other Texans for making the swim. Y'all don't know this, but we have an even more exclusive group within the Channel Swimmers' community - the Texan Channel Swimmers group! So there's no feuding there! (Non-Native Texans need not apply!)

    Comradery amongst Channel Swimmers per se is irrelevant to any personal feud between a Channel Swimmer and a non Channel Swimmer.

    Again, from the first post, I said I have no issue with people using all the aids that their hearts desire if they wish.

    Me too. I think swimming across the EC in a wetsuit/fins is more of an accomplishment than swimming 10k down river in channel attire.

    I simply take issue with the usage of the title Channel Swimmer, which I feel is an honour only those who successfully complete the swim, within the rules, deserve. Maybe it's an ethical thing. Clearly we all have freedom of speech. But the more people count themselves part of this group when the reality states otherwise, the more the public becomes misguided on what we're about as a community of EC swimmers.

    I agree with you again. However, I don't understand why you felt a need to inflate your argument. Your choice of thread title and your opening post is Jerry Springeresque.
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    @oxo She then got on the boat

    I haven't read that anywhere. Only that she had continued with wetsuit.
    In Brittany King's blog she writes that her pilot captain said: Why don’t you put the wetsuit on, get back in, sprint, generate body heat, and continue on as long as you can.

    I interpreted 'get back in' to mean that she got out and onto the boat and then put on the wetsuit.
  • oxooxo
    edited January 2013

    Despite the White Horse pub being closed at the time Brittany signed her name on the exterior of the building. ...snip... I don't know about you but to me when you sign your name at the White Horse Pub you are stating that you did a certified crossing if the EC.

    I was quite disappointed when I first saw that relay swimmers were signing the White Horse walls inside. I think a solo swim in a wetsuit/fins is more of an accomplishment than a 6 person relay swim. I'm not sure just who the White Horse Pub owners allow to sign (indoors).
  • edited January 2013
    I stand corrected. :((
    So it isn't only a crossing with wetsuite but also a staged swim. Things are getting worse for Brittany.
    Besides she has a high self esteem. The size of her announcement on the wall!
    Inside the pub it would have been room enough for 50 crossings.
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
Sign In or Register to comment.