A Major Victory in the Alaska Swimsuit Controversy
My Medium story uncovering the scandal attracted more attention than anyone could have imagined
In response to public outrage over a young high school swimmer’s disqualification from a race that she won last week because of how her swimsuit fit her curvier body, school officials are now reversing course. The Anchorage School District and Alaska School Activities Association announced Tuesday evening that officials have overturned the Dimond High School swimmer’s disqualification. They are also moving to strip the certifications of the volunteer official who made the call, while the underlying rule that prompted the scandal — that swimsuits meet specific standards of coverage — was taken off the books, as well.
My Medium story uncovering the scandal attracted attention in a way no one could have imagined. And though exposing the issue presented a huge personal risk — after all, as a swim coach within the same school district, I’m directly impacted by the fallout — it was the right thing to do.
The Anchorage School District made the correct decision, and everything that has come to pass since the piece was published is more optimistic than anyone could have anticipated. With the young swimmer’s victory restored, now would be a good time to reflect on the resolution.
The decision to speak out against in Friday night’s disqualification, and the simmering controversy leading up to that incendiary moment, was not motivated by a desire to vilify the official who made the call, or the people who supported them. Instead, it was an effort to stand up for that individual athlete and her peers, to give them a louder voice in their struggle, and to let them know that they are not an island in the middle of a horrible storm.
An athlete’s appearance should never be more noteworthy or garner more attention than the quality of their performance in their sport.
Let’s be clear: The referee in this incident, and those who supported their call to disqualify the swimmer, are not bad people — their hearts were probably in the right place. It’s likely they were motivated by a concern over what they see as deteriorating standards of modesty and morality in the swimming community. The scandal over how swimming suits fit young girls’ bodies, which unfolded in the last year, is a collection of unintended consequences and possibly a distortion of their original goal.
Many of us within the swimming community are so grateful for the swift action taken to restore the athlete’s victory and ensure her security and prosperity at future high school swimming competitions. We hope that it will serve as a beacon for anyone who is facing discrimination so that they may feel empowered to stand up, speak out, gather support, and seek justice for their cause.
Fast swimmers come in all shapes and sizes. It is not about what you look like, but rather how hard you work and how tough you are mentally, physically, and emotionally. An athlete’s appearance should never be more noteworthy or garner more attention than the quality of their performance in their sport.