A high school swimmer in Alaska won her 100-metre freestyle heat last week, only to be disqualified as soon as she got out of the water. Her one-piece swimsuit broke the modesty rule, the referee announced.
The young girl, a 17-year-old state championship swimmer at Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska was wearing the school-issued swimsuit that every other girl on the team was wearing and yet she was the only one disqualified. A referee who was present at the swim meet told the Anchorage Daily News that the official who made the controversial call disqualified the girl because she could see “butt cheek touching butt cheek.”
The referee who made the controversial call has not been publicly named and HuffPost will not identify the high school swimmer who was disqualified, as she is a minor.
The disqualification quickly stirred controversy in the Anchorage community, with some pointing to the fact that the swimmer is nonwhite and “curvier” than most others on the team. Lauren Langford, a swim coach at a neighbouring high school, was the first to make this point in a Saturday essay on Medium.
“All of these girls are all wearing suits that are cut the same way,” Langford told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features.”
Langford explained in her essay that the national standards for high school swimming and diving attire ― also referred to by some as the “modesty rule” ― require male and female athletes to cover their genitals, buttocks and breasts. But, as Langford pointed out, almost all swimmers’ suits move while they are competing ― known as a “suit wedgie.”
“Wedgies happen. It’s uncomfortable. No one’s going to walk around that way intentionally,” she told the Post.
The Anchorage School District announced on Monday that it has opened an investigation into the referee’s controversial disqualification call.
“ASD is reviewing the disqualification of a student athlete during the September 6 Dimond High School home swim meet,” the statement says. “We intend to gather all the facts surrounding the disqualification so we can accurately address the matter with officials and take appropriate action to ensure fair, equitable competition and consistent application of the rules for this athlete and her peers.”
The school district confirmed to local outlet KTUU on Monday that the suit the swimmer was wearing is in compliance with the district’s modesty rules. The girl has reportedly worn the same suit three other times this season and was not disqualified at any point.
The teen at the centre of the controversy has two other sisters who are on the swim team. All three have reportedly experienced similar body-shaming in Anchorage’s swimming community. Langford wrote that parents of other swimmers on the team have been heard saying that “for the sake of their sons” the mother of the three swimmers should “cover up her daughters”.
Langford said that last year a parent on the team took a picture of the teen’s butt while she was wearing a swimsuit and emailed the photo to other parents to show that she was wearing inappropriate swimwear.
The mother of the teen told KTUU that she wants both of her daughters to be valued for their athleticism and determination in the pool ― not criticised for the shape and size of their bodies. She said she wants to see Friday’s disqualification overturned and that specific official kept away from her daughters.