Wario orders swimmers Issa, Rebecca included in Rio team
Sports Cabinet Secretary Dr. Hassan Wario has directed Kenya Swimming Federation (KSF) to write to the international swimming body Fina to enter axed swimmers, Issa Mohammed and Rebecca Kamau, in the August Rio 2016 Olympics or risk the sport being withdrawn from the Summer Games.
The directive follows days of fierce protest against the omission of Rebecca and Issa from the team despite posting the best times than the selected swimmers; Talisa Lanoi and Hamdan Bayusuf, who were entered in the team by Fina on the recommendation of KSF.
Under fire KSF boss, Ben Ekumbo was confronted by Issa’s uncle Salim Mohamed over the controversial omissions that have been a subject of intense social media debate and an online petition since the start of the week.
Ekumbo and his federation sought to explain their decision to bar the faster swimmers using Fina’s qualification criteria but protesters led by Rebecca’s father, Kiruri Kamau and Martin Dunford, who’s sons Jason and David are the country’s most famous exponents pointed out the interpretation of the world governing body’s rules was flawed.
Media personalities, activists and Kenyans of all walks of life joined into the push to have teenagers Rebecca and Issa re-instated while calling for Ekumbo to resign from his post with Wario threatening to withdraw the sport from the Summer Games if the directive is not followed through.
It took the intervention of the Ministry’s Public Relations Officer; Richard Abura and Team Kenya Chef-de-Mission to Rio; Stephen Soi to restore calm at the docket’s headquarters in Nairobi as Salim sought an explanation from the adamant Ekumbo.
“I came here today to question the criteria of selection on merit according to Fina points because when the list came out my name was missing, yet my opponent Hamnad whom I beat at the nationals in February got the chance.
“All I want is justice to be done. I am here to argue not only my case but also that of my fellow swimmer Rebecca Kamau who faces the same challenge. Why send a person who is much slower while the faster one remains behind yet they are willing to represent Kenya? ” wondered Issa.
The 50m and 100m butterfly specialist and law student stressed if the names are not changed, then the option of cancelling swimming in Team Kenya would be the best, a thought Nairobi Swimming Association Chairman, Reginald Okumu who was present in support of the axed swimmers concurred with.
“Our position is that if Issa and Rebecca do not go which means the country will not be sending its best swimmers, then no one should go,” he charged.
Njeri Njoroge, representing London based Rebecca, told Citizen Digital how the 16 year-old budding swimmer was heartbroken after learning she was not part of team Rio.
“She could not handle it at first, although she is gradually accepting the fact that she might not go. It is very unfortunate considering the girl has dedicated her life to books and swimming at the expense of a social life yet her effort is taken for granted.
“She was axed on a technicality for missing the Kazan Trials yet she was informed about them just a week to the competition,” lamented Njeri.
She observed this was just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ills engulfing sport in the country, citing poor governance as the root of the mess.
“This is just one case in a 1000. We foot all the bills for our children going for competitions only to be subjected to harsh treatment and poor conditions in the hands of unconcerned federation officials.
“We want through this matter, all the issues of the swimming fraternity to be addressed as CS Wario has indicated.”
Soi could not tell on when to expect Fina’s response although the deadline for the replacement is Monday after the that for submission of participants elapsed on July 12.
Stakeholders from different sporting disciplines were still locked in a closed door Steering Committee Meeting for Rio 2016 Olympics later Friday at the Ministry offices without the Minister who left without addressing gathered media.
Additional reporting by Loise Wanjiku
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