Swimmer Rebecca’s Olympics omission brews scandal


Swimmer Rebecca Kamau who has been omitted from Kenya's squad to Rio Olympics in action. ...
Swimmer Rebecca Kamau who has been omitted from Kenya's squad to Rio Olympics in action. PHOTO/Courtesy/Kiruri Kamau

Controversy is brewing after female swimmer, Rebecca Kamau, who qualified for next month’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games was allegedly locked out of competition by world body FINA.

Rebecca’s plight was highlighted by an emotional Facebook post written by her father, Kiruri Kamau that has been trending on social media since Tuesday with the National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Nock) expressing their displeasure over the move.

However, Kenya Swimming Federation (KSF) boss, Ben Ekumbo moved to clarify that only Hamdan Bayusuf and Talisa Loe have been selected by FINA as Kenya’s wildcard entries for Rio.

“It was the duty of KSF to forward her name for us to enter her in the Olympics and we do not understand why that did not happen.  We invested in her and we hoped she would make the team since we paid for her to go to the last qualifiers,” Nock Executive Officer, Stephen Soi who is also Kenya’s Chef-de-Mission to the Brazil Games underlined.

The scandal has reached the doorstep of the Sports Ministry with Cabinet Secretary; Dr. Hassan Wario announcing a Nock Steering Committee meeting on Friday will address the matter.

“I am gutted and absolutely ashamed to be a Kenyan this morning. I have just received a letter from the Kenya Swimming Federation Chairman Mr. Ben Ekumbo informing me that my daughter Rebecca Kamau has not been selected to go to the Olympics.

“Rebecca is the only swimmer from Kenya who has achieved an Olympic Qualifying time among Kenyans. She is the first Kenyan female swimmer to ever make a Qualifying time. She has qualified in two events, 200 Breaststroke and 200 Individual Medley.

“The two swimmers who have been selected by KSF to represent Kenya are Hamdan Bayusuf and Talisa Lanoe. I don’t understand the rationale for leaving Rebecca out of the team. His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta said sometime back that only those who are qualified should be selected to go to the Rio Olympics. Is swimming run by different rules from other sports?” Kiruri posted on his Facebook page.

FINA rules that state that National Olympic Committees with no swimmers who have achieved an A-Standard Olympics Qualifying Time or who have been selected by the world body for a B-Standard Olympics Standard may enter a maximum of one man and one woman (Universality Places), provided that those swimmers participated in the 16th FINA World Aquatic Championships in Kazan in 2015.

The two swimmers failed to automatically qualify as Hamdan clocked 27.74 and 1:00.7 in the 50m and 100m backstroke events while Talisa clocked 1:07.05 and 2:24.45 in the 100m and 200m backstroke at the 2015 Championships in Russia.

The athletes will however be entered in an individual event each.

The UK-based Rebecca had qualified for Rio after she swam under the “B” standard Olympic qualifying set time of 2:18.96 and 2:32.08 in the 200m individual medley and 200m breaststroke but would not be part of the team as Nock had already presented two athletes to the federation.

“The claim by Mr. Ben Ekumbo in a press release that Fina selects swimmers is only partially true. Universality places, what used to be wild cards, are decided by the National Federation and then forwarded to Fina for “confirmation”. Mr. Ekumbo sent two names of Hamdan Bayusuf and Talisa Lanoe. If Fina were to be given more names to select from the two would not have made the team.

The selection of the two swimmers is the culmination of a series of acts of betrayal of young swimmers, a well orchestrated structural rigging, dating back to 2013 when the Fina Olympic cycle scholarships were awarded to the two. Any reasonable person will, and am sure at the time asked: how was the choice of the two recipients of the scholarships reached?” the axed swimmer’s father responded in another post on Wednesday.

FINA rules dictate that a National Olympic Committe (NOC) may enter a maximum of two qualified athletes in each individual event, only if both athletes have attained the Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT)/’A’ standard but also allows for one athlete per event to enter if they meet the Olympic Selection Time (OST)/’B’ Standard.

The qualifying time standards must be obtained in World Championships, Continental Championships, Continental Qualification Events, National Championships and Trials, or International Competitions approved by FINA in the period between March 1, 2015 to July 3, 2016.

-Superior talent-

“Among female swimmers there were swimmers with obvious superior talent and commitment like Emily Muteti and Anita Fields who did not even get a look in. Emily, especially, was causing ripples in the pool at the time and had just been voted the Most Promising Female Personality of the year and the consensus of most would have been that she was the most deserving. But she was ignored and has continued to be ignored with the inevitable result her progress has stymied and does not reflect her immense talent.

“Tory Pragassas and Michah Fernandes, among others, are boys whose talent as swimmers was and is indisputable. Besides, four years ago they were at the age when they should have been exposed to high performance training which a generous scholarship would have helped nurture. They were ignored. What was behind this push to give prominence to swimmers of such mediocre and limited talent? This is not place nor time to engage in conspiracy theories,” the aggrieved parent continued.

“Ekumbo can still redeem himself. Fina’s qualifying procedures provide a window of opportunity that  ‘Additional swimmers having achieved an OST / “B” time may be invited to ensure that all NOCs represented at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan (RUS) will have an eligible swimmer to participate in the Olympic Games’. Let him do the right thing by Rebecca for once,” Kimani who received overwhelming support on local media stated.

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Story By Eric Kagunda
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