Teen Swimmer Receives Justice After Being Disqualified for All the Wrong Reasons

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By: | Published: May 31, 2023

Nothing hurts more than losing something you know you’ve worked so hard to achieve. In the case of Breckynn Willis, it was the top prize in a swimming competition.

She trained hard for it, but a heartbreaking turn of events left her disqualified, even if it wasn’t her fault. So what happened to Breckynn, and how did she pull through?

Born for the Water

Some people were born to dance, while others have a knack for singing. As for Breckynn Willis, she was born to glide gracefully through the water.

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Source: Instagram @alaska_peak_performance

Even as a child, Breckynn couldn’t go a day without swimming. She was constantly training and dreamt of one day becoming an Olympic swimmer. She joined every competition there was and never stopped improving her technique. Knowing she put so much heart into the sport, the ordeal she went through is even more devastating.

Poised to Win

On that fateful day, it seemed like everyone was there watching. There was a strong smell of chlorine around the indoor pool, and the entire place was throbbing with energy and excitement.

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Breckynn was excited because this was the 100-meter freestyle – her specialty. She knew she had a huge chance at winning because she had trained every muscle in her body on what to do and how to win. However, she didn’t know that even before she started, a judge was already eyeing her sternly.

A Perfect Run

Breckynn plunged into the pool the moment the referee blew the whistle and performed as expected – with excellence. It was all reflex for her, having trained for moments like these since she was little.

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When she reached the end of the pool, she easily pulled herself out of the pool and smiled at her performance. She knew that she was flawless. So she happily grabbed her towel and started drying herself off, not expecting that something bad was about to happen.

An Unbelievable Decision

Breckynn was still on a high after a flawless performance, but what she heard next left her completely stunned. The voice rang clearly across the venue – she had been disqualified from the competition.

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Source: KTUU

She was starting to panic. She looked around and caught her coach’s eye. But her coach seemed to be just as dumbfounded as she was! They had no idea what caused the decision, but they both knew that they were not going to let this go that easily.

Questioning the Decision

Lauren Langly, Breckynn’s coach, immediately marched to the referee, ready to contest the decision. From a distance, Breckynn could see how tense the discussion was.

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Source: Dewayne Ingram/KTUU

As she approached, she knew that something was terribly wrong. Her coach was obviously in disbelief over the reason given for her disqualification. Of course, Breckynn knew her coach well and realized she wouldn’t be like this if the case weren’t so serious. This got her even more curious about the explanation of why she was suddenly disqualified.

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A Ridiculous Explanation

Breckynn came closer to find out what her coach and the referee were arguing about. She knew that the disqualification was ridiculous because she had trained for this her entire life. She knows what she should and should not do. So why were they disqualifying her?

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When she heard her coach exclaim, “You can’t be serious!” She knew that the reason for her disqualification was unacceptable. Her coach was a good sport and would not react this way if the explanation was valid.

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From the Judge’s Point of View

When Breckynn finally figured out what her coach and the referee were arguing about, she was furious. She didn’t know how to react or what to say because the reason for her disqualification was not acceptable to her at all! She knew that they should not take this lightly.

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Source: JOLYN

The referee explained that one of the judges made the final decision. They said that Breckynn’s swimsuit revealed her butt cheeks so much that it was almost indecent. Breckynn’s face turned bright red! She could not believe what she was hearing.

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An Embarrassing Accusation

Breckynn’s coach tried to argue her way out of it. It was not only embarrassing for Breckynn, but it was also insulting for her because the judge made it seem like she hiked up her swimsuit on purpose.

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Source: Twitter

This was a considerable allegation to make, so Lauren decided to call it a day. Little did everyone know that this was just the beginning of the battle. It turns out that aside from the swimsuit, the judge had other reasons for making such a decision.

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A Common Problem

By now, more people knew what was happening and were just as outraged as Breckynn and her coach. Everyone also pointed out that all the participants wore the exact same swimsuit, so why was she being singled out?

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Source: In Touch Weekly

It’s also normal for swimmers to experience what happened to Breckynn and her swimsuit. Called the “swimmer’s wedgie,” it’s a common problem that no swimmer wants to happen but always does. But then, there’s a bigger issue lying behind all of this.

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Taking Serious Action

Coach Lauren knew that they had to take a different route. So they went to the Alaska School Activities Association and filed a formal complaint. They also took to social media to let more people know the truth.

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Source: KTUU

It wasn’t surprising that they got the public’s support, but an even darker truth is about to surface. Because, as it turns out, the swimsuit wasn’t the main issue. The referee had an even bigger reason for why he decided to make the call.

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Not a One-Size-Fits-All Scenario

One of the obvious reasons people contested the referee’s call was simple – all the girls in that competition were wearing the same swimsuits. But what makes a huge difference is the fact that not all of the girls were the same size.

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Source: Jolynclothing

Breckynn was actually curvier compared to the other girls. She is also of mixed-race heritage, which had put her smack in the middle of the referee’s focus. When the comparison was made, the real reason behind it all became apparent.

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A Similar Experience

The real reason wasn’t clear right away because it took some time for them to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It turns out that aside from Breckynn, the only other girl who ever had the same issue in another competition like this was her sister.

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Source: KTUU

There was something about Breckynn and her sister’s appearance that ticked off the referee and made them clear targets. It wasn’t about their swimsuits at all – it was about their appearance. This made everyone who knew the story even more furious.

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Making Excuses

Still, referee Jill Blackstone stood her ground and said that the disqualification was given because of the “modesty rule” applied to these competitions. She still believed that she had made the right call and that the disqualification was truly justified.

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Source: Anchorage Daily News

This made Coach Lauren even more intent on bringing this injustice to light. She was interviewed by KTUU, where she emphasized how Breckynn was targeted and singled out and was not just a victim of circumstance. She knew that the ruling was not fair.

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The Modesty Rule

The modesty rule, which the referee used as an excuse, was the reason why there were standard-issued swimsuits in schools. What they don’t realize is that the bodies of the girls wearing these swimsuits are very different.

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Source: JOLYN

Of course, it would all come down to Coach Lauren’s word against the referee’s. After all, it all comes down to the referee’s judgment on whether Breckynn’s way of wearing a standard piece of clothing was proper or not. But Coach Lauren wasn’t about to give up.

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Shedding Light on the Truth

Coach Lauren wrote a blog that bared every detail of what happened. She also raised an evident issue – that the modesty rule wasn’t about getting the girls to wear the same uniform. Rather, it was about policing the students’ bodies, specifically the girls’.

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Source: Anchorage Daily News

The coach also believed that this was a campaign that put girls of color into the spotlight. She talked about how these rules have been causing girls to feel awkward in their own natural bodies just because they were curvier.

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The Impact on Girls

Coach Lauren talked about how the modesty rule and other incidents like this continue to divide the swimming community, not just in Breckynn’s school, Diamond High, but in other schools as well.

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Source: Courtesy of Dewayne Ingram

Her biggest concern was the impact on the way the girls would feel about their own bodies. Instead of these athletes focusing on their performance, they have become conscious about how they look when wearing the standard swimsuits issued by the school. She emphasized that the rule was policing the girls’ bodies, not the swimsuits.

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The Obvious Difference

Coach Lauren further emphasized that this was also about race, even if other people would say it isn’t. She says that white students have been warned before about their swimsuits revealing too much skin. The biggest difference? They weren’t disqualified.

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Source: JOLYN

She further noted that it’s not about the young swimmer wanting to be scandalous, which is what the referee was initially implying. The truth is, the referee simply wasn’t comfortable with how the standard swimsuit fit into Breckynn’s curvy body compared to the bodies of her peers, who were thinner.

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A Tasteless Judgment

To top off the entire ordeal, Coach Lauren revealed another incident concerning Breckynn, this time involving a parent. Apparently, a parent had discreetly taken a few photos of Breckynn showing her rear. Then, the parent emailed the photos to other parents and a few teachers.

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Source: YouTube – The Kelly Clarkson Show

The parent then said that this was a clear uniform violation and even commented that the parents of these young girls should teach their kids to cover up, at least for the sake of parents who have sons in the school.

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A Stern Reminder

Because of this, Coach Lauren sent out a stern reminder – if you don’t like it, then don’t look! She further emphasized that because these were young girls, they shouldn’t be seen as provocative in the first place. She also said that she couldn’t turn back time and reverse what happened, but she would do everything in her power to make sure it didn’t happen again.

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Source: YouTube – The Kelly Clarkson Show

Because the story had gone viral, the Anchorage School District had no choice. They had to take action.

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To the Public Eye

Breckynn’s story also caught the attention of the media. In fact, Kelly Clarkson invited her and Coach Lauren on her show, where they talked about the incident and what kind of message it sent to girls everywhere.

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Source: YouTube – The Kelly Clarkson Show

It was not just Kelly Clarkson who was outraged by the entire ordeal. Even the audience, as well as her online followers, were shocked and expressed their disgust. It was obvious to everyone that there was discrimination on so many levels here.

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More Women Speaking Up

The comments showed how many women have endured similar experiences. One person commented that it seemed like curvier women get more calls to be more modest as if it was their fault they had fuller chests and butts.

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Source: YouTube – The Kelly Clarkson Show

Another commented that it was disgusting how the referee was also a woman. She says body shaming is even more disturbing when it comes from another woman. But now that more people were outspoken about the injustice, would this be enough to change things?

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No Assumptions

Thankfully, the association involved decided to reverse the decision and granted Breckynn her win. The referee was also put under investigation. They were also forced to look deeper into their own guidelines to bridge the evident gaps.

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First, they reminded all their referees and other staff that they were not allowed to make assumptions about how the participants wore their suits since these were all standard-issued anyway. This should have been obvious, but it was voiced just the same.

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No Judgment and Discrimination

The second reminder to the referees was that they should never judge any participant based on their outward appearance. Again, this should be a given. But due to the recent events, it did seem like a reminder was in order. It was further emphasized that any form of racism, sexism or other forms of discrimination would not be tolerated.

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Source: The Sun UK

The ordeal definitely left a mark on everyone, especially Breckynn. But things did turn out in her favor, after all. And this was just the beginning.

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STILL SWIMMING

Because Breckynn’s experience got so much attention, she started receiving offers for scholarships from different colleges. It also highlighted her swimming skills even more, and a lot of teams wanted to recruit her.

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Source: Facebook/Alaska Swimming News & Information

Although the incident was traumatic and left a few bad memories, Breckynn got justice and was finally able to compete again. Not only that, but she also gave other women who had similar experiences a voice. Now, Breckynn can finally just swim again and is building the future that she always wanted.

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