Twenty representatives were elected to the FINA Athletes Committee ©FINA

Jamaica's Alia Atkinson has become the first elected chair of the International Swimming Federation's (FINA) Athletes' Committee here, with Russian diver Maria Polyakova also voted onto the panel.

Under reforms to the Athletes' Committee, 20 athletes were elected by peers from their aquatic discipline, with six athletes later appointed as members and a further six as honorary members by FINA President Husain Al-Musallam following approval of the FINA Bureau and endorsement by their National Federations.

Elections for candidates representing artistic swimming, diving, open water swimming, swimming and water polo were held electronically at the ongoing World Championships in Budapest.

High diving is not on the programme at the World Championships, so elections were held through a postal ballot.

Atkinson, a four-time gold medallist at the World Swimming Championships (25m), headlines the list of 20 elected representatives.

She underlined the importance of holding the elections for the athletes' body.

"Today marks another significant step forward for both FINA and all aquatics athletes," Atkinson said.

"The Athletes’ Committee will act as a critical link between athletes and FINA.

"Having the athlete community choose those who represent them in important decisions is critical for the future development of our beloved sport."

British diver Jack Laugher, a three-time Olympic medallist, has been named as vice-chair.

Jamaica's Alia Atkinson is set to serve as the FINA Athletes' Committee chair until 2026 ©Getty Images
Jamaica's Alia Atkinson is set to serve as the FINA Athletes' Committee chair until 2026 ©Getty Images

The elected contingent of the Athletes' Committee includes a further nine swimmers - Therese Alshammar of Sweden, Ireland's Shane Ryan, Hong Kong's Siobhán Haughey, Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan, Australia's Jessica Hansen, Papua New Guinea's Ryan Pini, Uganda's Jamila Nsibambi Lunkuse, Matthew Sates of South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago's Dylan Carter.

The second diving representative elected was Polyakova, a former European champion in the women's 1 metres springboard.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus are currently banned from competing in FINA events due to the war in Ukraine, but FINA has not suspended officials from either country from holding positions, and Al-Musallam insisted that Polyakova had earned her place on the Athletes' Committee on merit.

"Our policy is that we study case by case," Al-Musallam explained to insidethegames.

"For the interests of the athletes' safety and the integrity of our championships, that's why we chose after reviewing every small point and big point not to invite [Russia and Belarus], and they understand, and they withdrew themselves from here.

"But, she is a candidate as an athlete.

"We don't punish athletes at FINA.

"She didn't violate any rules, and she ran for an election, and the athletes voted for her.

"All the athletes that are here in Budapest voted for her, so we have to respect the wish of the athletes, and this is why I am happy that the athletes have said what they would like to vote for."

Russian diver Maria Polyakova was elected to the FINA Athletes' Committee, and President Husain Al-Musallam insisted
Russian diver Maria Polyakova was elected to the FINA Athletes' Committee, and President Husain Al-Musallam insisted "we have to respect the wish of the athletes" ©Getty Images

Artistic swimming is represented by Egypt's Nehal Saafan and the United States' Bill May, with Brazil's Ana Marcela Cunha and The Netherlands' Ferry Weertman serving as open water swimming representatives.

Anna Bader of Germany and Alain Kohl of Luxembourg were elected to represent high diving, with water polo players Margarita Plevritou of Greece and Felipe Perrone Rocha of Spain completing the composition of the 20 elected officials.

There were 29 candidates for the election in total, with each required to have competed at one of the previous two editions of the World Championships or Olympic Games, or be competing in Budapest at the ongoing event.

Representatives from all six continents have been elected to the gender and discipline-balanced Athletes' Commission.

Al-Musallam emphasised the significance of the elections in ensuring that the athletes' voice is heard.

"Athletes are the heartbeat of aquatics," he said.

"There is no sport without athletes.

"This is why I am so proud to be part of these historic elections today.

"With equal gender representation and athletes from all six continents across all disciplines, I have no doubt that those elected will strengthen and promote the athletes' voice for the benefit of the entire aquatics community."

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam, fifth right, said
FINA President Husain Al-Musallam, fifth right, said "athletes are the heartbeat of aquatics" ©FINA

Britain's three-time Olympic and eight-time World Championship swimming gold medallist Adam Peaty was among the six current athletes appointed by Al-Musallam to join the Athletes' Committee.

insidethegames is awaiting clarification on the President's appointments of five more current and six retired athletes.

Hungary's Dániel Gyurta and Italy's Federica Pellegrini are also set to serve on the panel as elected members of the International Olympic Committee's Athletes' Commission.

The Athletes' Committee is responsible for offering input into the organisation of the World Championships and the development of technical rules, and is designed to serve as the "athletes' voice in aquatics sport".

Members of the Athletes' Committee are due to serve terms running until 2026.

It was previously chaired by South Africa's two-time Olympic gold medallist Penny Heyns, who spoke at the announcement of the elections results.

She commended the changes, congratulated the new members, and said that she believes FINA has an "exciting future".

Al-Musallam was elected as FINA President in June last year, with widespread governance reforms approved at an Extraordinary General Congress in December.

This is his first World Championships as President, and it has also been marked by FINA's decision to require transgender athletes to have completed transition by the age of 12 to be eligible for women's events.