Olympian Dives into Association World, Launching Group for Pro Swimmers

Calling for a greater role for professional swimmers in shaping their own sport, Hungarian Olympic gold medalist Katinka Hosszu and 29 other world-class competitors launched the Global Association of Professional Swimmers last week.

One of the world’s most accomplished competitive swimmers, frustrated with the sport’s governing body, has launched an association to represent swimmers’ interests and create a community to shape the sport’s future.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Katinka Hosszu of Hungary announced the launch of the Global Association of Professional Swimmers last week on social media. GAPS kicked off with 30 members from 14 countries around the world, including American competitive swimmers Conor Dwyer, Madison Kennedy, Katie Meili, and Lia Neal.

“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,” the 30 founding members wrote in a letter that Hosszu shared via Twitter, accompanying the announcement.

The new group emerged out of long-simmering frustrations among swimmers with the Fédération Internationale de Natation, which governs aquatic sports for the Olympic Games and other international competitions. Earlier this year, FINA released controversial changes to the rules governing swimmings World Cup events, including limiting the number of events an athlete can swim and giving Olympic and World Championship medalists direct access to their event finals. Although some of the changes were met with widespread approval, such as adding promotional activities and media attention, many swimmers—Hosszu included—are seeking a more prominent place at the table.

“Its not an exaggeration to say that FINA is in chaos,” Hosszu wrote in an open letter last month. “There is the lack of transparency in the financials, the constantly changing rules, and leaders with no vision. At first it may seem a bit scary, but this is the time for us, the swimmers, to do something about the future of our sport. We wouldnt need to be pioneers; there are so many inspiring examples from other sports before us.”

FINA said the goal of the changes is to “attract more stars and improve the exposure and visibility” of the competition, according to sports news outlet Inside the Games.

GAPS’ objectives are set out on its new homepage:

  • We believe that athletes are essential to a successful sport.
  • We believe that athletes should have a say in how their sport is formed and how the rules are changed.
  • Right now our sport’s leaders are not involving us in these rule changes.
  • We want our voice to be heard and to stand up for ourselves.
  • We want to create a community of swimmers where we can discuss our sport’s future and unify our voice so it can become louder.

“The opportunity has always been right in front of us,” Hosszu wrote last month. “But it is up to us to take the chance. Just like in any performance, we all have to start this together, but instead of us competing against each other, this time we have to fight together as one.”

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu. (Wikimedia Commons)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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