One interesting element of the Olympics is how national sports federations sometimes screw the whole thing up. The latest case there comes from the Polish Swimming Federation, which selected 23 swimmers and sent them to Tokyo for the Games, but then sent six home after finding out that their mandated max roster size was 17. Here’s more on the backlash to that from Scott Gleeson of USA Today:
Alicja Tchórz, an Olympian at the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games, ranted over Facebook about Poland’s error.
“Imagine dedicating five years of your life and striving for another start at the most important sporting event, giving up your private life and work, sacrificing your family and your dedication results in a total flop,” she wrote on Facebook.
…Mateusz Chowaniec was another swimmer of the six sent home. He wrote on Instagram: “I’m deeply shocked by what happened. This is an absurd situation for me that should never have happened. In fact, I hope to wake up from this nightmare eventually.”
Here’s that full (translated) Facebook post from Tchórz (seen above) Sunday:
This seems like something that the federation should have known well in advance. However, it’s notable that the selection process for Olympic swimming is a bit complicated, and is more complicated than usual this year due to COVID-19 changes. So it’s possible that there was some level of communication breakdown between FINA and the Polish Swimming Federation over who would be allowed to compete. Still, even PSF president Pawel Slominski recognized his body screwed up royally here:
“I express great regret, sadness and bitterness about the situation,” Slominski said in a statement. “Such a situation should not take place, and the reaction of the swimmers, their emotions, the attack on the Polish Swimming Federation is understandable to me and justified.”
This would be brutal even in a normal Olympic year; telling people they’ve made an Olympic team and then yanking that rug out from under them is rough under any circumstances. But it’s perhaps even worse this year given the many restrictions imposed on athletes travelling to Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These six athletes jumped through all the hoops to get to Tokyo, thinking they’d get the chance to compete for their country on a global stage. And then they were told that the federation had made a mistake and they’d have to go home. That’s highly unfortunate, and their anger here and demands for the federation to do better seem quite reasonable.