In an effort to finally end all discussions related to the non-inclusion of swimmer Chloe Isleta in the Philippine Team to the 19th FINA World Championships, FINA or the International Swimming Federation issued a statement during the opening day of the event in Budapest, Hungary.
In a one-page letter last Friday, June 18, 2022 FINA sports director Pere Miro explained the reasons behind why the international swim body had to deny the inclusion of Isleta despite attempts from Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lailani Velasco to add her on the squad.
It should be remembered that on May 26, the PSI announced the official roster for Budapest, which included Jasmine Alkhaldi, Miranda Renner, Isleta and Luke Gebbie,
Alkhaldi, Renner and Gebbie earned their slots by virtue of achieving a “B” standard entry time in a FINA qualifying event. Isleta earned her slot through universality. Isleta also bagged the country’s only gold medal in swimming when she ruled the women’s 200-meter backstroke of the recent 31st Southeast Asian ames in Hanoi, Vietnam.
In the Vietnam SEA Games, an event approved by FINA as a qualifier to the worlds, Alkhaldi (25.62 seconds in women’s 50m freestyle), Jerard Jacinto (26.04 seconds in men’s backstroke) and Renner (26.99 seconds in women’s 50m butterfly) achieved “B” standard entry times. Gebbie, for his part, achieved a “B” standard entry time during the Tokyo Olympics way back in July 2021 (49.64 seconds in men’s 100m freestyle).
At the world championships, national federations who do not have more than four swimmers achieving standard entry times may enter up to a maximum of four swimmers, typically two men and two women. But under FINA By-Law 220.127.116.11b, it allows the participation of three female swimmers and one male provided that three of the four swimmers achieved a standard entry time. This is the reason why Isleta was named into the lineup despite missing the B standard entry time in her event.
Jacinto, though he has qualified, begged off and was not named because of health reasons.
However, last June 6, the PSI received news that Gebbie sustained an injury in training that forced him to withdraw from the world championships. Because of that, the local federation had to again make changes on its roster for the world championships.
“We understand that originally three athletes from the Philippines had achieved the qualification standard times. Following the injury of Gebbie Luke Michael, only two athletes registered at the Fina World Championships had a qualifying time B,” said Miro.
“Therefore, with only two athletes which qualified with a B standard entry time for the world championships, the maximum number of swimmers allowed is two male athletes and two female athletes. It is not possible to have three female athletes and one male athlete,” added Miro.
“On 7th June 2022, FINA received an official letter from Mrs. (PSI president Lailani) Velasco requesting an exception to have three female athletes and one male athlete, despite having only two of their four athletes with a ‘B’ qualifying standard time,’’ said Miro.
“On 8th June 2022, FINA informed Mrs. Velasco that no exception was possible. FINA rules must be strictly respected by all national federations,’’ said Miro, also the concurrent Deputy Director General for Relations of the International Olympic Committee and the IOC director to NOC relations and Olympic Solidarity for 26 years.
Following FINA’s response, PSI was forced to name only three swimmers, instead of four, to the team participating at the worlds from June 18 to 25 with two-time Olympian Alkhaldi leading the way, joined by Renner and Jonathan Cook. Cook was selected as a replacement to Gebbie on the back of his strong performance in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke which earned him the highest FINA points of 793 among all remaining eligible swimmers.
PSI’s decision to withdraw Isleta from the worlds, though based on the FINA guidelines, led to criticism of Velasco’s leadership as supporters of Isleta – particularly her mother – attacked her on social media.
Velasco is also in Budapest for the world champs as a member of the FINA Disciplinary Panel and the Asian Swimming Federation Bureau.
FINA president Husain Al Musallam also sent his congratulatory letter on the former’s recent re-election at PSI and wished “for the success of future sports projects of the Philippine Swimming Inc.”