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BASA defend decision to overlook Blackburn

Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association (BASA) have hit back at criticism from elite swimmer Lisa Blackburn who has lashed out at their selection process.

Blackburn, who captured six medals (including five gold) at last week’s Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation Championships (CCCAN) in Costa Rica, landed herself in hot water after publicly taking the association’s selection process to task after being snubbed for a wild card to this month’s FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

In a strongly worded press statement, BASA president Tim Petty said: “It is a disappointment to see that one of the Islands most experienced swimmers has chosen, as opposed to following the appropriate communication channels, to air complaints regarding a selection process in public. The Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association has a rigorous and well documented selection process regarding the qualification for overseas major meets with meet times and, where applicable, standards for wild card qualification.”

Blackburn is adamant that she is more than worthy of being granted the wild card to the World Championships.

However, BASA beg to differ.

“Wild cards are available for certain sports and certain events,” Petty said. “BASA has a selection process based on supporting developing athletes who are working towards qualifying in the future. It is expected that these athletes are training at an elite level with an elite team, regularly compete at major meets and are demonstrating significant improvement in their performances.

“Miss Blackburn has continued to perform well when representing Bermuda, but during 2012-13, the competitions have been focused around Masters events (age 25 and over), as opposed to the US Grand Prix circuit, and her times are slower than in previous years.

“In 2003, when representing Canada, Miss Blackburn posted a time of 2.31 for the 200m breaststroke, a time which would have afforded her selection for the current World Championships. At the Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation Champions (CCCAN) meet last week, she posted a time of 2.49 for the same event, some 17 seconds slower than qualification. Her 100m Breaststroke swim, her best event, a time of 1.14.59 was swum which was slower than the time to win the 15-17 year age group, and some 3 seconds slower than she herself performed 3 years ago to set the Bermuda record.”

Petty said the wild card selection process which Blackburn has taken issue with was brought to the swimmer’s attention last year.

“The wild card selection process was communicated to Miss Blackburn in fall 2012 and a meeting was held to clarify the wild card selection process,” he added. “It was made clear at that stage that selection for Miss Blackburn was contingent on making the qualifying standard which she has unfortunately failed to achieve.”

Petty defended BASA’s decision to grant the promising Rebecca Heyliger the wild card to the Championships rather than Blackburn.

“As indicated in the selection of Rebecca Heyliger, BASA is keen to afford improving swimmers the experience to attend major meets with a view that they can continue their progression and qualify for future major international meets,” he said. “Unfortunately Miss Blackburn’s performances are declining, not improving and therefore she has not been selected for the World Championships in Barcelona based on performances in 2012-13.

“We understand and can sympathise with Miss Blackburn’s disappointment, and wish her well in her ambitions to gain qualification standards for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the World Championships in 2015.”

Blackburn captured more medals than any of her Bermuda teammates at last week’s CCCAN Championships.

However, Petty downplayed the veteran swimmer’s medal winning exploits in the pool.

“The recent CCCAN meet reported on in the press is a strong development meet for the junior levels,” he said. “However at the senior level the majority of events swum at the 18+ age group went straight to finals and some had as few as three participants. As such, whilst Miss Blackburn performed well, this should not be regarded as a world class level meet.”

It is understood that Blackburn, who could not be reached for comment, intends to appeal BASA’s decision.

Heyliger will compete alongside Olympian Roy-Allan Burch — who met the qualifying standard — at this year’s World Championships to be held July 19 to August 4.

Lisa Blackburn

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Published July 08, 2013 at 9:00 pm (Updated July 08, 2013 at 8:59 pm)

BASA defend decision to overlook Blackburn

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