SOFLO Swimmers Ready For This Weekend’s FGC Senior Championships

By Sharon Robb
CORAL SPRINGS, July 19, 2022–After successful BB Championships and Junior Olympics, South Florida Aquatic Club’s championship season continues this weekend with the Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

The three-day meet gets under way Friday with prelims at 8:30 a.m. and finals at 5 p.m.

St. Andrew’s Aquatics is defending long course champions after winning its first-ever title last August.

In one of the closest finishes, St. Andrew’s Aquatics won the combined team title. Defending seven-time champion SOFLO finished runner-up in combined with 1,295.50, 151.50 points behind St. Andrew’s Aquatics with 1,446. Jupiter Dragons were third with 1,064.50. They were the only teams to crack the 1,000-point barrier among a field of 35 teams.

St. Andrew’s Aquatics also won the boys team title with 1,143. SOFLO was second with 790 and Swim Fort Lauderdale was third with 675.

Jupiter Dragons, led by Heidi Smithwick, winner of seven individual and relay events, won the girls’ team title with 710.50 points, just 41.50 points ahead of Gulliver Swim Club with 669. Pine Crest was third with 665.50. SOFLO was fourth with 505.50 and St. Andrew’s Aquatics was sixth with 303.

Because of bad weather and impending storms moving in from the Everglades, the final night session was cancelled and results were morning timed finals. The 400-meter medley relays and fast heats of the 1500 freestyles were not contested.

St. Andrew’s swimmers dedicated the win to longtime head coach Sid Cassidy, who underwent coronary angioplasty and stent surgery and was unable to be at the meet. But this year Cassidy will be at the meet celebrating his one-year successful surgery anniversary.

In March, SOFLO won its eighth senior championship title at the short course meet. SOFLO swept all three team titles.

SOFLO topped a field of 36 teams to win the combined team title with a record 2,048 points topping its previous record of 2,007 set at last year’s short course championships. TS Aquatics finished runner-up with 946 points for its best finish in a major championship meet. Pine Crest Swimming was third with 673.5.

SOFLO won the women’s team title with 1,072.5, also a record, ahead of TS Aquatics with 579.5 and Pine Crest Swimming with 530. SOFLO won the men’s team title with 976 points ahead of Metro Aquatics with 465 and Azura Florida Aquatics with 421.

This year the field is wide open with Azura Florida Aquatics with its talent-laden relays as the heavy favorite.

SOFLO has 29 swimmers (19 boys and 10 girls) entered in 131 individual events and 16 relays in eight relay events. After senior champs, SOFLO swimmers have Zones and Futures remaining to end the summer.

Dominic Bono, 19, Olivia Dinehart, 17, Elena Dinehart, 17, Enrique Rodriguez, 17, Agustin Rodriguez, 17, Maddie Smutny, 17, Aldo Zepeda, 17, and Sara Quintero, 18, head SOFLO’s contingent.

University of Georgia junior Connor Haigh, 20, swimming unattached for SOFLO, is top seed in the 200 breaststroke in 2:18.54 and 100 breaststroke in 1:04.37.

The star-studded field features U.S. junior national team members and Florida commit Julia Podkoscielny, 17, of Pine Crest Swimming and Stanford-bound Josh Zuchowski, 18, of FAST. Both are prepping for the Aug. 24-27 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii where they will represent the U.S. internationally. Zuchowski is also competing at senior and junior nationals. Podkoscielny is swimming one event (200 backstroke) at this weekend’s meet and will also compete at Futures.

Among other top-seeded swimmers are Heidi Smithwick, 18, of Jupiter Dragons; Daniel Ramirez, 29, of Westminster Academy; Gabriel Araya, 23, of Azura; Mia Zahab, 20, of Golden Panthers; Dylan Felt, 18, of Swim Fort Lauderdale; Emily Trieschmann, 19, of Nova Southeastern; Paola Gonzalez, 16, swimming unattached; Lismar Lyon, 21, of Midtown Weston; Steven Aimable, 23, of Azura; Matheo Mateos, 21, of Azura; Maria Jose Arrua, 23, of Azura; Alyssa Bozzuto, 16, of FAST; Carlin Hughes, 15, Lake Lytal Lightning; Cortes Robles, 18, of Azura; and Matheus Siniscalchi, 16, of Azura.

WHAT: Florida Gold Coast LCM Senior Championships.

WHEN: Friday-Sunday.

WHERE: Michael Lohberg Pool of Champions, Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, 12441 Royal Palm Blvd.

TIMELINES BEFORE SCRATCHES: Friday, 8:30-11:35 a.m., 5-7:37 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30-11:49 a.m., 5-7:31 p.m.; Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-12:32 p.m., 5-7:29 p.m.;

ADMISSION: $5 per sessions for prelims and finals. There will be a concession stand available. Heat sheets are available at or Meet Mobile. For more information call swim office 954-340-5032.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Wellbrock Breaks World Record; FGC’s Sid Cassidy Honored At FINA Short Course World Championships

By Sharon Robb
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, December 21, 2021–The final day of the 15th FINA Short Course World Championships ended with the fourth world record of the meet Tuesday at Etihad Arena.

Germany’s Florian Wellbrock broke the world record in the 1500-meter freestyle in 14:06.88. Wellbrock pulled away from the field at the midway mark. The previous record was 14:08.06 set in 2015 by Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, who was fourth in Tuesday’s race in 14:21.00. Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia was second in 14:10.94 and the Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk was third in 14:11.47.

Three other world records were set earlier in the week. Siobhan Haughey broke the 200-meter freestyle world record in 1:50.43. Margaret MacNeil broke the world record in the 50-meter backstroke and Sweden equaled the 4×50-meter medley relay world record.

The three individual swimmers and four relay swimmers earned an additional $50,000 in addition to their $10,000 first place prize money.

In addition, five world junior records and 11 meet records were broken. Swimmers from 28 countries earned at least one medal, the most countries ever awarded at a short course world championship.

“I want to thank everyone in the aquatics family, in particular the incredible athletes, for ending this challenging year with so many incredible performances during this historic FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi,” said President Captain Husain Al-Musallam.

“The world-class Etihad Arena and the beautiful shores of Yas Island have provided the ultimate environment for athletes to set world and national records and provide family-friendly entertainment for thousands of passionate swimming fans.”

In local short course world championship news, St. Andrew’s Aquatics Director and head coach Sid Cassidy was awarded the first Dennis Miller Award during the FINA Gala as an outstanding open water organizer.

In other championship final action:

Italy’s Alessandro Miressi held on to win the 100-meter freestyle in a national record 45.57 just ahead of American Ryan Held in 45.63.

American Emily Escobedo won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:17.85, 3/100ths ahead of Evgeniia Chikunova of the Russian Swimming Federation. It was only the second individual gold medal of the meet for the U.S. women.

In another close race, Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki surged in the final 50 to win the 200-meter backstroke in 1:48.68 ahead of American Shaine Casas in 1:48.81.

Canadian Maggie MacNeil won the 100-meter butterfly in 55.04. American Claire Curzan broke the world junior record in 55.39 and was third.

American Nic Fink won the 50-meter breaststroke in 25.53.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the 50-meter freestyle in a meet record 23.08.

The U.S. women won the 4×50-meter freestyle relay in 1:34.22 just ahead of Sweden in 1:34.54 with Abbey Weitzeil, Claire Curzan, Katharine Berkoff and Kate Douglass.

Italy won the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay in a meet record 3:19.76 ahead of the U.S. with swimmers Lorenzo Mora, Nicolo Martinenghi, Matteo Rivolta and Alessandro Miressi.

FINA paid out $2.8 million in prize money, a 50 percent increase in prize money for individual swimmers. There was also a $50,000 bonus given to any swimmer who breaks a world record.

The top eight individual payoffs for first through eighth place were $10,000, $8,000, $7,000, $6,000, $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000.

There were 943 swimmers from 183 countries competing. The 16th FINA World Swimming Championships will be held Dec. 17-22 , 2022 at the Aquatics Palace in Kazan, Russia.

FINA and Myrtha Pools also announced the renewal of their long term partnership that will see Myrtha continue as one of FINA’s Official Partners for the next four years through 2025.

FINA also confirmed the meet had 37 positive COVID-19 cases including 15 athletes. Seven nations including Singapore and Nigeria were also forced to withdraw because of the restrictions.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Italy Wins First Gold Medal At FINA Short Course World Championships; SOFLO’s Atkinson, Horrego Race Thursday

By Sharon Robb
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, December 15, 2021–Italy won the inaugural open water mixed team relay Wednesday at the 15th FINA Short Course World Championships at Yas Bay.

It was the first time the new open water event was held at the championships.

Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy led his relay team in the 6K event. His split of 15:49.1 was the fastest of the nine teams that competed. He was 3.2 seconds faster than Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky, who challenged him in the final lap.

“It was a tough race,” Paltrinieri said. “Since Tokyo, I have been focusing on pool training, mostly on the 1500 meters. Today was a race in the sea, but it was also a 1500-meter race so I decided to swim the relay.

“Relays are always fun. I won’t be swimming the 10K Thursday. I battled with Kristof for the last 200 meters and he was trying to stay close to me. After the last buoy I gave it everything I had and he wasn’t able to pass me.”

Hungary was second in 1:06.51 and Germany was third in 1:07.29. The Italian team will split $20,000 in prize money. Hungary earned $16,000 and Germany $12,000.

Martina De Memme led off the Italian relay in 17:23.8 and was the sixth fastest lead-off swimmer in the event. De Memme was also the oldest swimmer on the Italian relay at age 30. Giulia Gabrielleschi, 25, the youngest Italian swam the second leg in 17:24.60 and was fifth fastest swimmer in the second leg. Domenico Acerena swam the third leg in a time of 16:10.6, second-fastest third leg swimmer.

Longtime St. Andrew’s Aquatics director and coach Sid Cassidy of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee directed the open water event.

The five-day meet continues Thursday with the pool competition and ends Tuesday, Dec. 21.

SOFLO and Florida Gold Coast will be well-represented. SOFLO Olympians Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Julio Horrego of Honduras will represent their countries. Both will compete Thursday. Atkinson, the world record holder in the 50-meter breaststroke, is seeded second in 28.88. Horrego will compete in the 100-meter breaststroke. His entry time is 1:01.18, seeded 37th.

Other FGC swimmers competing are:

Steven Aimable, Senegal, Azura.
Julimar Avila, Honduras, Azura.
Nicole Frank, Uruguay, Azura.
Yeziel Morales, Puerto Rico, Azura.
Maria Fe Munoz, Peru, Azura.
Kerry Ollivierre, Grenada, Azura.
Joaquin Vargas, Peru, Azura.
Sidrell Williams, Jamaica, Azura.
Dylan Carter, Trinidad and Tobago, American Heritage Plantation alum.
Izaak Bastian, Bahamas, Florida State, St. Andrew’s alum.
Miguel Cancel, Puerto Rico, University of Florida, Gulliver Prep alum.

FINA will offer a prize money pool of $2.8 million, a 50 percent increase in prize money for individual swimmers. There will also be a $50,000 bonus for any swimmer who breaks a world record.

The top eight individual payoffs for first through eighth place are $10,000, $8,000, $7,000, $6,000, $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000.

There are 943 swimmers from 183 countries competing. The swimming is part of the Aquatics Festival which includes open water swimming, high diving and diving team competition.

Final sessions of the pool swimming will be streamed on NBC Sports’ Olympic Channel. Eurovision Sport’s All Aquatics will air the heats.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

St. Andrew’s Aquatics Captures First-Ever Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships, SOFLO Finishes Second

By Sharon Robb
CORAL SPRINGS, August 1, 2021—In one of the closest Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships, St. Andrew’s Aquatics won its first-ever combined team title Sunday at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

Defending seven-time champion South Florida Aquatic Club finished runner-up in combined with 1,295.50, 151.50 points behind St. Andrew’s Aquatics with 1,446. Jupiter Dragons were third with 1,064.50. They were the only teams to crack the 1,000-point barrier among a field of 35 teams.

St. Andrew’s Aquatics also won the boys team title with 1,143. SOFLO was second with 790 and Swim Fort Lauderdale was third with 675.

Jupiter Dragons, led by Heidi Smithwick, winner of seven individual and relay events, won the girls’ team title with 710.50 points, just 41.50 points ahead of Gulliver Swim Club with 669. Pine Crest was third with 665.50. SOFLO was fourth with 505.50 and St. Andrew’s Aquatics was sixth with 303.

Because of bad weather and impending storms moving in from the Everglades, the final night session was cancelled and results were morning timed finals. The 400-meter medley relays and fast heats of the 1500 freestyles were not contested.

St. Andrew’s swimmers dedicated the win to longtime head coach Sid Cassidy, who underwent coronary angioplasty and stent surgery and was unable to be at the meet.

“We wanted to make him happy and feel better so we wanted to do well,” said St. Andrew’s sprinter and U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier Maximilian Zum Tobel, anchor leg of the Florida Gold Coast record-breaking 200-meter freestyle relay in 1:32.48, just missing the national age group record by .05. The previous FGC record was 1:32.87 set by Westminster Academy in 2013.

“We weren’t talking about the title too much but we were pretty confident because we knew we had a stacked finals in the 50 free and 100 back,” Zum Tobel said. “Our mindset was that we were ready to take on what we wanted to do. I’m happy, this is awesome.”

Despite missing several top swimmers competing at both Futures Championships and Speedo Summer Championships that begin Tuesday, SOFLO swimmers rose to the occasion during the three-day meet.

“Our kids were phenomenal,” SOFLO coach Chris Anderson said from Greensboro, N.C. “They swam really well and stepped it up.”

SOFLOs Top 10 finishers were:

Michelle Marinheiro, 1500-meter freestyle, first 18:41.11.

Gaby Banks, 50-meter freestyle, second 27.10.

Christian Tijero, 1500-meter freestyle, second 17:40.12.

Michelle Fernandez, 100-meter breaststroke, fifth, 1:16.82.

Nathaniel Garrick, 1500-meter freestyle, seventh 18:14.87, time drop 38.82.

Alex Golding, 200-meter individual medley, seventh 2:14.44.

Rafael Rodriguez, 100-meter backstroke, eighth, 1:01.15; 50-meter freestyle, ninth 24.66, time drop 0.51.

SOFLO also had two swimmers, Alex Golding and Sebastian Lares make their Futures cuts during the meet.

For the summer’s last local long course meet, 41 SOFLO swimmers, ages 15-and-over, (26 men and 15 women) competed in 174 individual and eight relay events.

The top three girls high points leaders were: Heidi Smithwick, Jupiter Dragons, 215; Riley Botting, Pine Crest 141; and Paola Gonzalez of Metro Aquatics, 134. SOFLO’s top girl was Natalie Gembicki, 16, with 70 points.

The top three boys high point leaders were: Kaii Winkler, Eagle Aquatics 165.50; Gabriel Araya, Azura, 159; and Dario Martin, Olympus Swimming 147. SOFLO’s top boy was Alex Golding, 17, with 91 points.

: 1. St. Andrew’s Aquatics 1,446, 2. South Florida Aquatic Club 1,295.50, 3. Jupiter Dragons 1,064.50, 4. Pine Crest 894.50, 5. Gulliver 832, 6. Swim Fort Lauderdale 745, 7. Midtown Weston 652, 8. Azura Florida Aquatics 588, 9. Metro Aquatics 586, 10. TS Aquatics 430.

MEN TEAM TOTALS: 1. St. Andrew’s Aquatics 1,143, 2. South Florida Aquatic Club 790, 3. Swim Fort Lauderdale 675, 4. Eagle Aquatics 401.50, 5. Jupiter Dragons 354, 6. Azura Florida Aquatics 348, 7. Metro Aquatics 289, 8. TS Aquatics 244, 9. Olympus Swimming Club 242, 10. Boca Raton Swim Team 235.50.

WOMEN TEAM TOTALS: 1. Jupiter Dragons 710.50, 2. Gulliver 669, 3. Pine Crest 665.50, 4. South Florida Aquatic Club 505.50, 5. Midtown Weston 460, 6. St. Andrew’s 303, 7. Metro Aquatics 297, 8. TS Aquatics 291, 9. Wahoos of Wellington 248, 10. Flood Aquatics 242.50.

1500-meter freestyle: 1. Michelle Marinheiro, SOFLO 18:41.11, 2. Lillian Smith, SAS 18:55.69, 3. Addison Byrne, PB 19:31.34.

100-meter backstroke: 1. tie, Hanna Smith, PC 1:07.91 and Kiersten Munna, FAST 1:07.91, 3. Solana Capalbo, AZFL 1:08.39; SOFLO: 28. Sally Golding 1:12.81, time drop 1.41, 31. Sara Quintero 1:13.18, 41. Jena Legaspi 1:14.44, 45. Mariann Catalasan 1:15.73, time drop 0.08, 50. Sofia Osorio 1:16.90.

100-meter breaststroke: 1. Micaela Sierra, AZFL 1:13.30, 2. Heidi Smithwick, JUP 1:14.74, 3. Delaine Goll, GPA 1:14.88; SOFLO: 5. Michelle Fernandez 1:16.82, 26. Sabrina Osorio 1:23.11, 28. Mariann Catalasan 1:23.24, 33. Sara Quintero 1:24.21, time drop 0.16, 51. Ana Frable 1:29.50.

50-meter freestyle: 1. Heidi Smithwick, JUP 26.36, 2. Gaby Banks, SOFLO 27.10, 3. Kiara Caamano, JUP 27.17, 20. Nat Gembicki 28.44, 34. Michelle Fernandez 28.92, 47. Jennamarie Brames 29.50, 49. Sally Golding 29.52, time drop 0.53, 58. Michelle Marinheiro 29.83, 83. Sophia Bedoya 30.97.

200-meter individual medley: 1. Heidi Smithwick, JUP 2:24.51, 2. Riley Botting, PC 2:27.31, 3. Paola Gonzalez, MAC 2:27.50; SOFLO: 17. Nat Gembicki 2:33.76, time drop 4.89, 35. Jennamarie Brames 2:38.44, 41. Sabrina Osorio 2:41.25, 49. Mariann Catalasan 2:47.29.

1500-meter freestyle: 1. Thomas Powers-Hammond, SFTL 17:31.09, 2. Christian Tijero, SOFLO 17:40.12, 3. Mateo Shearer, HAT 17:40.37; SOFLO: 7. Nathaniel Garrick 18:14.87, time drop 38.82.

100-meter backstroke: 1. Josh Zuchowski, FAST 57.44, 2. Kaii Winkler, EA 58.62, 3. Joshua Balbi, SAS 59.45; SOFLO: 8. Rafael Rodriguez 1:01.15, 11. Sebastian Lares 1:01.84, time drop 2.41, 15. Alejandro Mateus 1:02.51, 17. Aldo Zepeda 1:02.78, 22. Philo Ibrahim 1:03.26, 27. Austin Nelson 1:04.46, 29. Adrian Hernandez 1:04.87, 38. Diego Nazario-Vazquez 1:06.33, time drop 2.85, 49. Nathaniel Garrick 1:07.31, 52. Nicolas Sanchade 1:07.83, 67. Nicholas Chaimowicz 1:11.06.

100-meter breaststroke: 1. Diego Jesus Duarte, AZFL 1:05.84, 2. Dylan Brisco, SAS 1:05.84, 3. Dario Martin, OSC 1:05.91; SOFLO: 16. Manuel Melendez 1:10.52, 18. Javier Roman 1:11.39, 38. Christopher Hau 1:14.40, 41. Alan Bertea 1:14.66, 43. Zackary Harris 1:15.46, time drop 0.81, 52. Adrian Hernandez 1:16.16, 66. Vinay Gurnani 1:19.57.

50-meter freestyle: 1. Josiah Morales, PAQ 23.29, 2. Reese Branzell, SAS 23.30, 3. Max Zum Tobel, SAS 23.86, 9. Rafael Rodriguez 24.66, time drop 0.51, 25. Philo Ibrahim 25.45, 27. Aldo Zepeda 25.50, time drop 0.19, 47. Brennan Binder 26.20, time drop 0.30, 83. Robert Wilson 27.19, 89. Christopher Hau 27.96.

200-meter individual medley: 1. Josh Zuchowski, FAST 2:08.93, 2. Dario Martin, OSC 2:10.93, 3. Gabriel Araya 2:11.80; SOFLO: 7. Alex Golding 2:14.44, 15. Javier Roman 2:16.84, 18. Sebastian Lares 2:18.07, time drop 3.80, 20. Alejandro Mateus 2:19.41, time drop 2.54, 21. Enrique Rodriguez 2:19.49, 25. Adrian Hernandez 2:20.83, time drop 0.85, 32. Brennan Binder 2:22.54, time drop 4.78, 42. Manuel Melendez 2:23.95, 50. Christian Tijero 2:25.59, 52. Garrett Oliver 2:25.79, 56. Zackary Harris 2:26.32.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

2020 Summer Olympic Games Postponed, Moved To 2021

By Sharon Robb

TOKYO, Japan, March 24, 2020–South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson will have to wait a little longer to make a historic fifth Olympic appearance.

After weeks of speculation, it’s official: the 2020 Summer Olympics, originally scheduled to begin on July 24 in Tokyo, Japan and end Aug. 9, have been postponed to a later date because of the global coronavirus pandemic and will not take place until 2021.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made what athletes, coaches and parents knew was inevitable official on Tuesday.

This is the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed although the major international event has been canceled three times because of war.

At 31, the four-time Jamaican Olympian was looking forward to competing in her fifth and probably final Olympics. SOFLO aquatics director and head coach Chris Anderson has coached Atkinson at all four Olympics.

“I do believe it was the best choice,” said the short course breaststroke world record holder. “A great majority of athletes across the board were on the same page. There is such a sense of relief.

“I don’t really have mixed emotions,” Atkinson said. “I think you have to consider everything. If every country competed there was a high probability of getting it. If one person has it, everyone in the Athletes’ Village is confined so that would increase the odds of getting it even more. And if the virus had died down in an athlete’s country and that athlete returned home with it, a whole second wave of the virus would start.”

Canadian Olympic swimming hopeful Bill Pisani already knew his country wasn’t going to the Summer Olympics, but it really hit home on Monday when he learned the Games were being postponed.

Pisani, 21, of West Palm Beach received an email from his swim federation on Sunday night that Canada was boycotting the Olympics because of COVID-19.

“For sure I have mixed emotions,” said Pisani, who grew up swimming in the Florida Gold Coast with the Lake Lytal Lightning and graduated from Florida State last year.

“The most emotion came when I was reading the email that it was postponed. I thought ‘oh wow this is the reality now.’ The more I think about it, it was absolutely the right decision.”

Pisani was pleased to see Canada join forces with Australia boycotting the Games and pressuring the International Olympic Committee to postpone the event until 2021.

“As the son of a Canadian who’s working in a hospital right now at the forefront of this invisible war and as an Olympic hopeful who has dedicated so much of his life to chase the Olympic dream, I am more proud than ever to be Canadian,” said Pisani, referring to his country’s boycott.

Pisani’s mom Lisa is a physical therapist. Recently, her hospital, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, had its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

“I think there was more of a sigh of relief for all athletes around the world,” Pisani said. “There were just too many questions left unanswered. Hosting the Olympics would have put so many people in danger. It makes us as athletes feel more secure and safe.”

The Canadian Olympic Trials were scheduled for March 30-April 5 in Toronto. Pisani was a favorite to at least make a relay.

“Over the past two years, the Olympic dream had become so close to reality for me,” Pisani said. “It was getting exciting as time went on and this year the closer we got to our Olympic trials it was the most excited I have been about swimming. Everything has definitely changed.”

Sid Cassidy of Boca Raton, St. Andrew’s School aquatics director and longtime swim coach, is vice chairman of the FINA technical open water swimming committee. He has been working Olympic events since 2008.

“I think at this point the athletes had it right,” said Cassidy, who was set to serve as referee for the men’s and women’s 10K races.

“It is hard when you see athletics taking a back seat,” Cassidy said. “Of course, I am disappointed they are not going to do it this year, but it certainly seems to be the best decision.

“There is no easy way to redirect your life. A lot of the talk is to be stronger and learn from it but it doesn’t take away any of the pain. This is very different from the 1980 Olympic boycott, this involves the whole world. I am happy for the athletes knowing but not happy with the reality.”

The U.S. swimming trials were scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha. The pandemic had already disrupted the training of every elite athlete and Olympic hopeful in the U.S.

The postponement and rescheduling to no later than the summer of 2021 will already add to a crowded 2021 schedule that features the 2021 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Fukuoka, July 16-Aug. 1. Track and field will also have a conflict with its Aug. 6-15, 2021 World Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Florida State swim coach Neal Studd echoed Cassidy’s sentiments after watching his swim program’s NCAA season end early because of COVID-19. The men’s team was expected to finish in the Top 10 for the first time.

FSU had eight swimmers at World Championships and six at University Games. Studd was the 2012 St. Lucia Olympic coach and has coached several student-athletes on the international level.

“If anything this gives it some clarity,” Studd said. “Now we get to re-set and plan accordingly.

“There are bigger problems than sports right now. There is a big picture here and bigger place in the world. Obviously though I would rather be at NCAAs and Canadian trials.”

Mariusz Podkoscielny, two-time Olympian for Poland in 1988 and 1992, now head swim coach at Pine Crest School, said problems were already beginning to surface because of the lack of out-of-competition drug tests during the pandemic.

“There is the aspect that the Olympic competition would not be fair, that the way of preparation is not on a level playing field,” Podkoscielny said. “There are issues of people taking advantage of illegal supplements without conducting the out-of-competition drug testing. It would give athletes a green light to do it.”

Podkoscielny said the COVID-19 is bigger than any sports event including the Olympics.

“The majority of athletes are going to feel relieved,” Podkoscielny said. “These are not the circumstances to get ready for the Olympics or think about the Olympics. People’s lives are changing daily.

“If I were an athlete right now I would be heartbroken not going. There will be disappoitment but it is right thing to do. Everyone agrees with that.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Open Water Swimming Takes Spotlight At 17th FINA World Championships; French Sweep In First Two Races

By Sharon Robb

Budapest, Hungary, July 16, 2017—Despite choppy waters in Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe, Olympic bronze medalist Marc-Antoine Olivier of France won the men’s five kilometer open water swimming race to take center stage at the 17th FINA World Championships.

Olivier won in 54:31.40, just .7 seconds ahead of Italy’s Mario Sanzullo (54:32.10).

It was a European sweep with Great Britain’s Timothy Shuttleworth taking the bronze medal, (54:42.10), 10.7 seconds behind the winning time.

“My goal was to win the gold medal after finishing third in last year’s Olympics in Rio,” Olivier said. “The first 3,000 meters weren’t perfect, but I changed tactics and managed to finish first.”

It was the first world championship medal for all three swimmers.

Top American finisher was David Heron placing tenth in 54:48.20, 16.80 minutes out of first. U.S. teammate Andrew Gemmell, among early leaders, faded to 17th in 54:59.30, 27.90 minutes out of first.

A field of 62 swimmers competed in the first of seven open water events. The women’s 5K is July 19th.

In the women’s 10K event, Frenchwoman and defending champion Aurelie Muller won the gold medal in 2:00:13.70, 3.30 ahead of Ecuador’s Samantha Arevalo in 2:00:17.00.

There was a tie for the bronze medal in 2:00:17.20 between Italy’s Arianna Bridi and Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha, who has trained and competed in South Florida in past years.

Top American finisher was Haley Anderson placing sixth in 2:00:25.90, 12.20 out of first. Teammate Ashley Twichell was tenth in 2:00.41.30, 27.60 off first.


St. Andrew’s Swimming aquatics director and head coach Sid Cassidy was honored by FINA for his contribution in open water swimming. Cassidy received the Gold Pin from FINA for his work in international open water swimming.


Four-time champion U.S. women’s team opened worlds with a 24-2 rout of South Africa. Jamie Neushul scored a game-high six goals. Italy defeated Canada, 10-4, China beat Brazil, 11-4, and Spain topped New Zealand, 10-2.


Four University of Miami divers are competing at the FINA World Championships.

Redshirt sophomore David Dinsmore, alum and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Sam Dorman and senior Briadam Herrera are representing the U.S. Junior diver Marcela Maric is competing for her native Croatia.

Longtime USA Diving and UM coach Randy Ableman is coaching the divers.

On Saturday, Olympic silver medalists Michael Hixon and Dorman placed sixth in the 3-meter synchro event with 409.05 points. In prelims, they qualified third with 410.10. On Sunday, Hixon finished fifth in the 1-meter springboard finals with 439.15. China’s Peng Jianfeng won gold with 448.40. Aussie Maddison Keeney won the women’s 1-meter title and Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilia Zakharov won the men’s 3-meter synchro title.

Former local diver Kassidy Cook, a 2016 Olympian, was scheduled to compete in 3-meter synchro but withdrew from worlds because of a shoulder injury.

Chinese teenagers Ren Qian and Lian Junjie won the gold medal in the mixed 10-meter platform. The pair of 16-year-olds won with 352.98 in the first final of the worlds. Ren is the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the women’s 10-meter platform event.

China also won the women’s 10-meter platform synchro with Ren and Si Yajie with 352.56 points.


Russia’s Svetlana Kolesnichenko, 23, won the first gold medal of the World Championships synchronized swimming competition. She finished the solo competition with 95.2035 points performing to the theme Solveig song. She made history by winning Russia’s 50th medal in the sport’s history at worlds.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

USA Swimming Foundations’s Make A Splash Hosts Event During 50th Annual ISHOF Weekend

USA Swimming Foundation’s Make A Splash Hosts Event During 50th Annual ISHOF Weekend

By Sharon Robb

June 12, 2014

South Florida Aquatic Club’s three-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson will join Olympic gold medalists Janet Evans and Jason Lezak at USA Swimming’s Make A Splash water safety event Saturday at Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.

Atkinson, Evans and Lezak will give free lessons to children and talk about the importance of learning to swim during the scheduled 50-minute session that begins at 11 a.m.

The event is one of the highlights of the International Swimming Hall of Fame induction weekend.

“Knowing how to swim can be the difference between life and death,” USA Swimming Foundation executive director Debbie Hesse said. “Formal instruction can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent.

“Through our more than two million lessons and counting, USA Swimming Foundation continually provides essential skills to underserved populations.”

Said Lezak: “I am proud to be involved with the Make A Splash initiative to help spread awareness of this issue all over the country and make a difference for future generations. As a father, I realized how big this epidemic is and wanted to do everything I could to help my kids become safer around the water.”

So far in 2014, Broward County has had seven children drown under the age of five including four in apartment complex pools.

The Olympians will host a USA Swimming Foundation luncheon at the ISHOF complex immediately following the water safety session.

Evans and Lezak will also be hosting the induction ceremonies on Saturday night.

The 50th annual Honoree Induction weekend will be star-studded.

Those scheduled to be inducted are swimmers Grant Hackett of Australia; Agnes Kovacs of Hungary amd Tom Malchow of the U.S.; water polo players Carlo Silipo of Italy and Karin Kuipers of the Netherlands; open water swimmers Sandra Bucha and Jon Erikson, both of the U.S.; synchronized swimmers Penny and Vicky Vilagos of Canada; diver Peng Bo of China; coaches Charlotte Davis of the U.S. and Jozsef Nagy of Hungary; contributor Norman Sarsfield of Great Britain and honor pioneer contributor Bruce Hopping of the U.S.

St. Andrew’s aquatics director and coach Sid Cassidy will be among Paragon Award winners for his open water swimming services as FINA Technical chairman. He will be joined by Olympic diver and announcer Cynthia Potter of the U.S., Olga Pinciroli of Brazil for water polo, Miwako Homa of Japan for synchro swimming, American Wally James for recreational swimming and American Bob Burnside for aquatic safety.

The Paragon and annual awards will be presented on Friday night at 7 at the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s DuPont Auditorium. The honoree inductions are Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach Resort.

For information and tickets call 954-462-6536

Sharon Robb can be reached at

USA Swimming Open Water Commission Releases Recommendations In Wake Of Crippen Tragedy

USA Swimming Open Water Commission Releases Recommendations In Wake Of Crippen Tragedy


April 13, 2011

Water temperature limits and improved safety standards should be observed at all open water competitions to avoid another Fran Crippen tragedy.

Those were among safeguards suggested by a five-person commission, that included St. Andrew’s Swimming aquatic director and open water technical expert Sid Cassidy of Boca Raton.

The commission reviewed the circumstances surrounding the death of Crippen, one of the nation’s top and most experienced open water swimmers.

Its recommendations were released on Wednesday by USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body. FINA, the sport’s international body, failed to provide additional information for any inquiry to be complete until it issues its own report.

Crippen, 26, a 2012 Olympic hopeful, died of apparent heat exhaustion during an Oct. 23 FINA-sanctioned 10K open water event in the United Arab Emirates. It took nearly two hours to find Crippen’s body.

Among panel recommendations, that FINA adopt minimum and maximum water temperatures for races. For 5K and longer races, the water temperature cannot be about 87.8 degrees and the combined water and air temperature cannot exceed 145.4 degrees. The race must be postponed of the water temperature is below 60.8 degrees or the combined water and air temperature is less than 86 degrees

There should be a safety plan that would include the ability to monitor and reach swimmers at all times during a competition. A safety officer, independent of the organizing committee, must be present at each race and has the power to withdraw sanctioning if all standards are not met.

A physician with experience in endurance sports must be present along with at least one emergency medical technician per 150 swimmers, an ambulance on site or within five-minute response time per 250 swimmers and plan for air evacuation.

FINA, USA Swimming and other national federations should work on developing a tracking system that works in water, possibly sonar or GPS.

“What we’ve produced is a sensible program of action that will significantly reduce the potential for this sort of a tragedy to occur in open water swimming again,” said commission chairman Dick Pound of the International Olympic Committee.

At a press conference following the release of the commission’s recommendations, Pound was disappointed with FINA’s lack of information. USA Swimming officials including USA Swimming president Bruce Stratton also expressed disappointment and frustration.

“The supervision procedures (on race day) were inadequate,” Pound told reporters. “It ought not to be possible for a swimmer to go under water and not be seen by somebody in the course of an open water event. We know things went wrong but how they went wrong and so on we just don’t know.”

USA Swimming also named Bryce Elser as open water program manager for the national team division. He will plan and coordinate all aspects of the open water program. He will join the staff on May 23 and report to new National Team Director Frank Busch.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’s Nixon, Perera Make Open Water Debut; Crippen Remembered At Rough Water Swim

SOFLO’s Nixon, Perera Make Open Water Debut; Crippen Remembered At Rough Water Swim


January 10, 2011

On a chilly, sun-drenched morning, all eyes were on ISHOF’s 41st annual Fort Lauderdale Rough Water Swim off Fort Lauderdale beach in the wake of U.S. national team member Fran Crippen’s tragic death in October in a FINA-sanctioned open water swim.

Conditions were ideal, both weather and safety, on Saturday morning to illustrate just how safe open water swimming can be.

World-class swimmers Ricardo Monasterio, 32, and Ana Marcela Cunha, 18, of Brazil, who train with the Davie Nadadores, won the overall titles to honor Crippen.

Both were friends and competed in several of the same open water swims that Crippen did through the years.

“If any good can come of a swimmer’s death in a race, people will now put the safety of the swimmer first,” said Monasterio, who won the mile swim in 18:04. “We all loved and respected Fran and this should never have happened and should never happen again.”

Cunha, 18, finished third in the same 10K race that Crippen lost his life in.  She won Saturday’s race in 22:55.

Crippen was in Fort Lauderdale last year for an open water clinic for local swimmers and coaches and also won the Fort Lauderdale Rough Water Swim in 19 minutes and 25.4 seconds.

He was remembered before race start by Sid Cassidy, St. Andrew’s Aquatics Director and top open water official and coach who is a member of the Crippen Commission looking into the cause of Crippen’s senseless death.

Cassidy, who knew Crippen since he was 10, wore a Philadelphia Eagles cap, Crippen’s favorite team, in his honor. 

“I know that he is with us here today,” Cassidy said before the race. “We are dedicating our swim today to his memory.”

Cassidy, who would not comment on any Crippen Commission findings, was pleased with how the swim turned out.

“We were blessed with a beautiful day and of course, that is a big part of helping us get it done,” Cassidy said. “Naturally, Fran’s death is on everybody’s mind especially officials and race organizers.”

Cassidy and other race officials knew the swim would be watched by others around the world.

“The world is taking a good look at a swim like this,” Cassidy said. “You put almost 300 people in the water of all varying abilities from the Women’s Open Water World Swimmer of the Year along with Ricardo Monasterio and some of the best age groupers all the way down to novice age groupers and Masters that are doing it for fun.

“It’s critical yes. Without professional supervision it would be a daunting challenge.”

ISHOF worked closely with Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue to ensure all standards established by the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) for open water swimming were in place including safety buoys.

“I got to give it to Brett Ballou, the beach patrol and ocean rescue, Bruce Wigo, Bob Duenkel and Jay Thomas,” Cassidy said. “Safety has been on the front of everybody’s mind. I think it’s critical when you have a professional lifesaving group involved and it shows. It went off without a hitch.”

The swim, parallel to the beach and swimmers, was observed from both the beach and ocean side of the course.

Race officials provided safety buoys to those swimmers who wanted to use them as an experiment to determine if they are viable for future open water races. The opinion was mixed from swimmers and coaches about the buoys and said they would rather use them in training.

Two South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers made their open water debut.

Morgan Nixon, 13, finished third in the 13-14 age group and 28th overall among women in 34:17, finishing three seconds ahead of her father, Richard Nixon, 45, a nationally-ranked triathlete, fifth in the 45-49 age group and 24th overall among men in 34:20. Rich Nixon is training for the May 1 St. Croix 70.3 Ironman.

“It was fun,” said Morgan Nixon, a Lyons Creek Middle School student. “It was hard to follow the age group kids because it was the ocean and there was a current. It’s different from a pool. It was fun and I would do it again.”

Nicholas Perera, 11, was second in the 11-12 age group in 31:29. Two other SOFLO teammates decided not to compete because of the cold water. 

While a handful of college swim teams in South Florida training during the holiday break competed, entries were low for the annual swim despite several familiar faces including 2012 Olympic triathlon hopeful Sean Jefferson, Ricardo Valdivia, David Boudreau, Ramses Rodriguez, Scott Tolomeo, Bert Soden, William Zenga, Ann Thomas, Nicole Swift, Beverly Clark and Susan Peterson.



WOMEN: 13-14, 1. Megan Moroney 24:59, 2. Amanda Tipton 31:26, 3. Morgan Nixon 34:17, 4. Elizabeth Price 37:59; 15-18, 1. Ana Marcela Cunha 22:55, 2. Amanda Ford 24:21, 3. Nilsa Easta 25:13, 4. Mary Deedrick 29:20, 5. Julia Price 31:54, 6. Elizabeth Reeve 33:50, 7. Rebekah Escuage 35:33, 8. Brianna Dumas 37:53.

MEN: 10-and-under, 1. Guido Dominguez 34:08, 2. Jacob Harkins 1:08:58, 3. Zak Zakian 1:09:01; 11-12, 1. Tyler Tolomeo 29:51, 2. Nicholas Perera 31:29; 13-14, 1. Eric Crosby 20:44, 2. William Haeffner 24:30, 3. Jacob Colvin 29:12, 4. Alex Valdivia 35:06; 15-18, 1. Ryan Rosenbaum 18:14, 2. Richard Andrews 19:38, 3. Tyler McGrew 19:40, 4. John Szerd 19:41, 5. Jacob Percy 19:45, 6. John Rudnik 21:10, 7. Thomas Veale 23:37, 8. Quinn Cassidy 24:41, 9. Jared Fish 27:56, 10. Felipe Bricio 28:37, 11. Dillon Copa 28:40, 12. Blake Edwards 32:19.


WOMEN: 19-24, 1. Steph Jeppesum 30:06, 2. Erin Cunnane 35:51, 3. Sophia Minulolo 42:20; 25-29, 1. Jackie Hammelman 34:16, 2. Lauren O’Donnell 37:00, 30-34: 1. Sonja Koppenwaller 30:14, 2. Lauren Beam 35:59, 3. Yanet Benitez 37:44, 4. Carolina Lypinska 41:09, 5. Gina Siegers 44:07; 35-39, 1. Sharon Barbins 33:58, 2. Silvina Castro 48:42, 40-44, 1. Diane Babec 33:30, 2. Nicole Swift 42:28, 3. Kimberly Cerda 43:13, 45-49, 1. Dana Haugli 32:32, 2. Silvana Baner 46:22, 3. Lisa Cox 46:49, 50-54, 1. Ann Thomas 40:52, 2. Joanna Berry 45:00, 3. Pauline Watson 45:16, 4. Adrienne Chin Ogilvie 49:04, 5. Diane McVey 55:43; 55-59, 1. Helen Ederer 39:54, 2. Meg Mason 43:51; 60-64, 1. Beverly Clark 54:11, 65-69, 1. Susan Peterson 46:19, 2. Kitty Kessler 58:55, 80-84, 1. Hedy Esposito 1:17:28.

MEN: 18-and-under, 1. Alberto Perez 40:21, 19-24, 1. Israel Murat 24:08, 2. David Lippin 30:07, 3. Sean Jefferson 32:08, 4. Kyle Stewart 32:18, 5. Larry Cox 43:25, 6. Gyori Laszlo 1:09:27; 25-29, 1. Dan Fey 31:25, 2. Jen Alloway 37:53, 30-34: 1. Ricardo Monasterio 18:04, 2. Randy Reed 40:37, 35-39, 1. Ramses Rodriguez 26:51, 2. Johann Perera 36:03, 3. Alejandro Barragn 41:49; 40-44: 1. Andrew Farrell 30:09, 2. Jose Rodriguez 30:24, 3. Eduardo Panteagudo 35:54, 4. Sean Blesi 41:32, 5. Martin Hynes 43:01; 45-49: 1. Ricardo Valdivia 26:17, 2. Scott Tolomeo 30:43, 3. John Carr 32:13, 4. Hugo Vila 33:26, 5. Richard Nixon 34:20, 6. Michael Clark 37:37, 7. Thomas Krasner 45:19; 50-54, 1. Matt O’Grady 31:27, 2. David Boudreau 32:31, 3. Chip Green 34:44, 4. Bob Diener 39:59, 5. Glenn Schrager 40:09, 6. Roy Sonenshein 40:27, 7. Dale Cox 44:13, 8. Sean Dugan 46:28; 55-59: 1. William Zenga 32:45, 2. Carlos Lloreda 33:22; 60-64, 1. Bert Soden 44:24, 2. Walter Woolley 46:00, 70-74, 1. Ron Samson 43:33, 2. Frank Day 54:57, 3. Leonard Silverstein 1:01:15; 80-84, 1. Hume Hamilton 1:16:57.


Women: 1. Ngozi Uwah 49:45; Men: 1. Doug Hutchinson 52:18.


Women Freshmen: 1. Colleen Tigne 27:07, 2. Laura Harris 28:03, 3. Erin O’Connor 28:07, 4. Rhiannon Urciuoli 28:10, 5. Kerry McIntyre 28:54.

Men Freshmen: 1. Thor Peterson 25:09, 2. Oscar Castillo 25:10, 3. Domenick Errico 25:29, 4. Brendan Malone 25:59, 5. Tom Malloy 26:00.

Women Sophomores: 1. Kelly Heyde 25:29, 2. Meghan Fay 26:56, 3. Kristen Schmid 27:02, 4. Ashley Bauer 27:21, 5. Bridget Hilferty 28:36.

Men Sophomores: 1. Tim Steiskal 25:27, 2. Billy Debsissone 25:43, 3. Thomas Kuhn 27:52, 4. Jack Eichenlaub 27:55, 5. Chris Coghill 28:31.

Women Juniors: 1. Amanda Thomas 22:38, 2. Nicole Huerta 27:10, 3. Kayla Wainwright 27:41, 4. Vivian Pitchik 27:48, 5. Jessica Rickel 28:40.

Men Juniors: 1. Matt Sorena 25:20, 2. Ray Conover 25:24, 3. Austin Mizzell 25:46, 4. Nick Ortlieb 25:52, 5. Erik Stefferud 25:54.

Women Seniors: 1. Nicole Chinnici 28:01, 2. Jenifer O’Neil 28:14, 3. Emily Stiles 28:51, 4. Casey Morrison 28:57, 5. Sofia Sokolove 29:13.

Men Seniors: 1. John King 25:53, 2. Thomas Hardy 26:52, 3. Jackson Webb 27:17, 4. Jesse Bregman 28:09, 5. Cullen Mentzell 29:12.

Sharon Robb can be reached at