Swimming mired in admin decay

If you are a five-time winner at a major competition, a national record holder and have countless other accomplishments in a sport discipline, you should have high expectations of a bright future representing your country.

For junior swimmer Amy Grant though, such thoughts are far from reality.

Not for the first time this year, Guyana’s current highest achieving female youth swimmer, has been unjustly denied national team selection, as the current XXIII Goodwill Swim Meet is going on without her, despite stellar performances at the meet’s trials.

This time around it is more agonizing given the fact that the competition is taking place in the team’s backyard at the Liliendaal National Aquatic Center.

While her peers are going for gold Grant will be twiddling her thumbs, engulfed in unhappiness at home, due to a clear case of discrimination.

At the Mashramani meet in March, the designated competition to determine the  national squad,  Grant  swept  aside the opposition for five victories, including a national record performance in the 50 metres butterfly, yet for her efforts she was rewarded with an inexplicable omission.

The Guyana Amateur Swimming Association’s (GASA) technical committee, of which, Sean Baksh, who according to reports has seized control, is the heart of young Grant’s distress, as stories have emerged in recent weeks, of gross general mismanagement of the association’s affairs.

In a telephone conversation, Baksh, whose committee is charged with team selection and resource allocation for competitors, said Grant was overlooked because she did not represent a club at the Mash meet, otherwise being an unattached entrant.   He was insistent that the GASA constitution disqualifies anyone from national team selection as an unattached competitor.

However, a perusal of all 28 Articles, reveals no such law, a discovery which pointedly undermines the official’s credibility.

Baksh added that Grant could’ve won team selection at subsequent competitions, including the July Sprints, but another attempt to earn her selection was met with a different roadblock.

According to Grant’s mother and coach,  Audrey  Alli, she was told by a coach of  Dorado, of which she is now a member,  that  Baksh said no single event entrant would be evaluated  for selection,  after attempting to enter her child  solely in the 50 metres freestyle race, due to  the lack of proper preparation, because of  a combination of the  late notice of the meet’s purpose for team selection and an illness to her child.

Baksh’s stipulation is as bizarre a stipulation as they come, unknown in any country, including selection for the Olympic Games and World Championships.

The official also claims Grant withdrew from national teams on three occasions in the past, for which he could not specify, other than stating they were Inter-Guiana Games (IGG) meets, when pressed. However, Ali debunked the claim, stating that her daughter was never selected on any national team.  She said they were informed by a coach a few days before last year’s IGG’s competition that Grant was picked as a reserve, which she added made little sense, stating, “ in swimming you are either a team member or not, there are no reserves.”

More so, a reserve position for Grant would’ve been a grave insult to the swimmer who had dominated the  2016 Indepen-dence meet, in the absence of trials, held prior to the IGG competition where she blitzed the opposition for five victories and one second place. The pattern of injustice continued when the youngster was also overlooked for last year’s Goodwill team. Later that year, once again Grant starred at the National Schools Championships, carting off the Under-16 Champion Trophy, with a haul of three gold medals and one silver.

Yet again, the 15 year-old Grant was overlooked for the Junior Common-wealth Games team in July, despite her accomplishments in 2016 and 2017.  Kenita Mahaica, who Grant defeated in her record breaking effort in winning the 15-17 year age group Mash 50 metre butterfly title, was selected instead. This selection occurred, despite Grant then having a higher event total of 2,739 aggregate points to Mahaica’s 2,555 points, as posted on the world ruling body, FINA’s website.

Baksh also told this writer that Grant did not set any record in the said event at the Mash meet, despite the official results revealing that the swimmer had clocked 31.66 seconds to erase Britany van Lange’s mark of 32.29 seconds, set on April 22, 2014, as noted on the GASA’s records list.

As of now, Baksh nor any other official has publicly refuted the Kaieteur News’ story of March 24 which reported the feat.

Thus, it beggars belief that anyone would want to suppress the career of a young athlete whose ability has brought her success from sprints to distance events.

She is adept in races ranging from 50 metres to the 1500 metres individual medley, unprecedented among local competitors of any gender in her age group.

In referring to a non-existent law in the GASA constitution, Baksh would be best advised to remember the first line of Article 4, `Section {a} “to promote and ENCOURAGE the development of swimming.”

According to her mother, young Grant is now so demoralized that she is losing the appetite to train due to the treatment which has been meted out.

Grant’s problems mirror the frustration of others in the sport’s fraternity in recent times.

An allegation by Dorado club of the GASA’s lack of accountability of external funding for national teams and the illegal selection of a competitor in the Nia Fraser case, is a shameful reflection of the sport’s administration.

Clearly, swimming once considered a sport of high administrative standards has joined the ranks of other national sports bodies where dysfunction characterizes their work.

This dysfunctional state of affairs in swimming and other disciplines could explain why Guyana has never even come close to matching its solitary Olympic Games bronze medal achievement in 1980, 37 years later.   Money has been a problem yes, but the talent of our competitors has never been in question.  The majority of administrators of today only care to use the athletes to benefit themselves, instead of developing the talent.

The actions of the GASA officials are a serious indictment on its President, Ivan Persaud.

For someone who sits atop the National Sports Commission (NSC) as its Chairman, his inaction is indicative of the parlous state of sports leadership existing here.

In wearing two hats on national sport bodies, unheard of around the world, Persaud is seemingly more motivated in accumulating positions than developing swimming, based on his desire to become the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) president once, and also its national coach.

Dorado has called on the Minister responsible for Sport, Nicolette Henry, who should consider hiring an advisor with a solid sport background, the likes of Joseph “Reds” Perreira, whose work with the late  Shirley Field-Ridley helped to produce Guyana’s best decade of achievement to date, the 1970s, to investigate.

The club and the Grant family, however, should take their cases to the highest level and apprise FINA of the deplorable work of its affiliate here.

As was the case with the national ruling football body not too long ago, divine intervention from outside could be possible.

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