After winning a gold and silver medal in the women’s 200 and 100-meter backstroke events in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games last month, swimmer Chloe Isleta seemed a cinch to compete for the county at the world swimming championships starting in Budapest, Hungary this Saturday.
But due to the quirks of the International Swimming Federation qualifying guidelines, Isleta was left out in the cold after missing the minimum qualifying or “B” entry standards in both events at the Vietnam SEA Games that the world swim body belatedly made a qualifying meet for the world tilt.
Swimming chief Lani Velasco Monday clarified that this was why Isleta was unable to compete in the world championships after two swimmers — veteran Jasmine Alkhaldi and US-based Miranda Renner — made the “B” entry standards in their separate events in the Vietnam SEA Games swimfest that was held at the My Dinh Aquatics Center from May 14 to 19 in Hanoi.
FINA had earlier set May 15 as the final deadline for nominations to the world meet before giving the Vietnam Games a special exception based on FINA by-laws 9.3.6., Velasco explained in a memo addressed to the PSI members last June 9.
“I was I was there when the announcement was made by the Vietnam SEA Games swimming organizers that FINA had made the competition a world qualifying event during the team managers meeting on May 12. This was the first time I and the other participating countries heard of this,” Velasco bared.
She added that she quickly informed the national swimming team of the surprise but pleasant development after the meeting, and among those who were able to make the most of the opportunity were Alkhaldi and Renner.
Alkhaldi and Renner met the “B” standard entry times, in the women’s 50m freestyle (25.66) and 50m butterfly (27.03), respectively, in Hanoi, Velasco said.
These clockings were better than FINA “B” entry times of 25.92 and 27.24 seconds, respectively, in the women’s 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly events.
On the other hand, despite her podium finishes, Isleta’s times in the in the 200m (2:18.60) and 100m backstroke (1:03.7), however, were off the “B” entry times of 2:11.08 and 1:02.78 in both events.
Velasco acknowledged that Isleta had originally been included as a “universality” qualifier for earning at least 750 points in the women’s 100-meter backstroke together with Renner, Alkhaldi and Fil-Kiwi Luke Gebbie as the country’s entries for the world meet.
But the late withdrawal of Gebbie – who had met the “B” entry times in the men’s 50m (22.57) and 100m freestyle (49.64) events – due to injury had placed the PSI in a bind regarding the three female swimmers, she said.
Although Jonathan Cook, who had 793 FINA points in the 200-meter breaststroke, replaced Gebbie in the lineup.
Based on the FINA qualifying guidelines, Velasco said, only national teams with three swimmers who have met the minimum qualifying marks or “B” entry times were allowed to include another team member by universality.
“Since Chloe’s selection was based on rankings by FINA points (i.e., Universality) and Jasmine and Miranda were selected by virtue of “B” Standard Entry Times they achieved in a FINA Qualifying Event (the Vietnam SEA Games), we had no choice but to pull out Chloe,” Velasco explained in the PSI correspondence.
She said that PSI had formally written FINA for a special exemption for Isleta, but this was declined by the world body.
“Should I turn a blind eye to Miranda and Jasmine qualifying for the worlds in Vietnam to accommodate Isleta? This would have placed PSI and myself in hot water with FINA,” noted Velasco, who is also a Bureau member of the Asian Swimming Federation, the continent’s highest swimming body.
“We wish to commiserate with Chloe and perfectly understand her frustration and disappointment about her sudden exclusion from the roster. However, we also want to assure Chloe that PSI exerted its best efforts to still include her in the roster,” Velasco stressed.
“Everything the PSI did in forming the team for the world swimming championships was based on FINA qualifying rules and guidelines.”
She rued the action taken by Isleta’s mother, who had been griping about the swimmer’s being dropped from the national team on Facebook rather than formally complaining to the PSI regarding the matter.
“She (Walker) calls me a cheat, a crook and an idiot on her Facebook page without knowing the real score. What is this?” Velasco asked.
Although declining to name names, she suspected that the swimmer’s mother was being used by certain parties and personalities who were trying to ruin the PSI’s gains since she took over as PSI president over five years ago.