As the athletes prepared for the closing ceremony on Saturday in Nice, France for the 2019 AIDA Depth World Championships, several senior officials approached DeeperBlue.com with separate statements and commentary on the organization of the competition. This was followed by a public statement by Pierre Frolla, Head of Safety for the competition, on Sunday morning.
The first senior official, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, said that:
“The decision of the judges to review the rules with the outcome of Hanoko Hirose was a ploy to avoid the threat of strike action from French safety team”.
The official also commented that the review was done in order to protect:
“…the athletes, AIDA and the organizers from a potential disaster. If a strike had gone ahead it would have caused mayhem. Money would have had to be refunded, dives canceled and the CWT disciplines for men and women, as well as the FIM layover dives and Nataliia Zhakova’s restart of her CNF (gold medal dive)”
It is clear now that the judges felt manipulated into the original review of Hanako Hirose‘s controversial 101m Constant Weight (CWT) dive on Thursday by the safety team, not the official protest mechanism in the rules.
The result of that first review was to give Hirose a red card and disqualification when the revised results were released later that evening. This decision was then overturned on Friday when a further review by the judges, several of whom felt very uncomfortable with the revised decision, agreed that the review was not allowed in the AIDA Competition Rules as no protest had been received by an athlete or team captain within 15 minutes of the official results being posted at 5 pm. It was then announced that Hirose had kept her white card and in turn received the gold medal.
The safety team threatened to strike if Hirose received a white card, and hence the gold medal, as they felt she had not completed the Surface Protocol correctly and as she was assisted off the line, given oxygen and taken to hospital they felt she could not receive the white card.
We also spoke at length to Marco Cosentino, the AIDA International Head of Safety, who was onsite at the competition but not responsible for the safety team – this was run by local organizers and headed up by Pierre Frolla.
RELATED: Full Marco Cosentino Statement
Cosentino expressed sadness that the sport of Freediving had experienced:
“an enormous loss of image for the sport and above all a lack of respect suffered by all the Athletes who train and are committed to the growth of competitive apnea, paying from their own pockets to participate to events like this.”
According to his statement, the AIDA International Medical and Safety Teams were not allowed to be involved in preparations by the organizers of the French competition. When approached several times prior to the event by Cosentino and Oleg Melikov (Medical and Science Officer) the competition organizers responded sharply:
“AIDA and judges are not responsible for the safety, the organizer yes. We have our safety procedure and AIDA can’t impose to an organizer it’s rules as AIDA is not responsible for the safety. AIDA can only suggest or recommend things”
The impact of this seems to indicate that although the event is an AIDA World Championships, the federation itself:
- cannot exercise any kind of control over the quality of the competition and;
- the event organizer is not bound to the use of protocols or standards approved and managed by AIDA.
Whilst it is the responsibility of the local organizers of the competitions for safety and quality of the competition, Cosentino is concerned that the impact of the competitions is run under the AIDA brand so going forward the federation should “exercise control over these critical aspects”.
When discussing the criticism on social media and forums about the performance of the safety team he stated:
“I will not go into the merits of how safety was managed in this event: everyone has the opportunity to review the images on the AIDA youtube channel and get their own idea. I will just say that my current role in AIDA requires me to prepare and send to the AIDA board a report as detailed as possible in order to discuss it in the most appropriate locations. But I underline what I have already shared in a post on the AIDA international page that contains all my emotions with respect to the way in which the hypertrophied ego of some subjects can condition (negatively) the image of a sport and above all the image of a professional figure, that of the Safety Freediver, which should be synonymous with honor and pride. I repeat and conclude by emphasizing that Safety should be the invisible angels, Safety should protect and support the Athletes, Safety should be the point of reference for judges and Athletes. Safety should remain impartial and focused only on his job, even if it is a tough job somedays with a lot of BO and incidents. If we lose sight of this goal, if we start looking for our own personal glory and self-assertion, if we start putting ourselves in the center of the picture using childish threats, then the essence of the role of safety has been lost and the damage to the sport is almost irreparable. Safety must be at the service of sport and athletes. If we want to see the growth of this sport to the highest levels we must rely on Safety Professionals who are motivated to preserve, protect and exalt the image of the sport.”
Pierre Frolla responded on Sunday morning with an equally damning statement directed back at AIDA International.
RELATED: Full Pierre Frolla Statement
In his statement, Frolla says that it is “terrifying” that AIDA International puts the safety of the athletes at risk because “an athlete, no longer in full possession of his physical, mental, or motor skills can, if he has made his exit protocol “in the rules”, be validated by white card.”
He goes on to say “Compromise is acceptable since the life of a man is worth more, in our eyes than the validation of a performance or the value of a protest (50 € remember it).”
Frolla believes that due to all these factors “It erases all the work done for 25 years in terms of “Development of the Apnea”.
It is clear that this has been the most controversial World Championships since the 2006 Team World Championships in Egypt.
Additional reporting by Victoria Brown