Olympic stars from yesteryear seek lifeline for snubbed swimmers
Two former Olympians have made a last-ditch plea to the Bermuda Olympic Association to reconsider its decision not to grant Madelyn Moore and Jesse Washington the opportunity to fulfil their dreams of representing the island in Tokyo this summer.
The BOA has come under intense scrutiny over the past five days since it was revealed that a decision had been taken to reject official invitations — in the form of universality places — for both Washington and Moore.
With the official deadline for all National Olympic Committees to enter athletes less than a week away, the pair’s hopes of a reprieve are becoming slimmer by the day.
However, their dreams are not completely dashed as yet, with Dale Neuburger, the International Swimming Federation treasurer and Tokyo 2020 Swimming Technical Delegate, confirming to The Royal Gazette that the universality places — first offered on April 13 — remain open until July 5.
That has led to Alan Burland and Jay Kempe, who represented Bermuda in sailing at the Games in 1984 and 1992 respectively, to implore the BOA to reconsider its decision to deny the pair the opportunity to follow in their footsteps and experience what could prove “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”..
Burland, who with Chris Nash finished fifth in the Tornado class in Los Angeles, said: “I know first-hand what is involved in terms of preparation, training, expense and ultimately the sacrifice in trying to qualify for an Olympic Games.
“They have been offered a place and that is something that should be supported if possible.
“We should always be willing to accept invitational places because the Olympics shouldn’t just be about winning; it is about offering athletes the opportunity to gain that experience. It feels like the BOA have lost their way in that sense.
“For a tiny country like Bermuda, you have to accept opportunities like that when they come along.
Burland and Nash were a legendary Tornado pairing who excelled at home and abroad before coming within three points of winning Bermuda’s second Olympic medal.
“It is absolutely inspiring to be able to go to an Olympic Games,” Burland added. “To represent your country and be recognised on the world stage is an experience like no other.
“It is an experience I can’t truly describe and it is one that they should absolutely be able to have. Everything that goes with competing at the Olympic Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people, and so our two athletes shouldn’t be denied that.
“All I can do at this stage is to urge the BOA to reconsider their decision; I can’t stress that enough.”
Those sentiments were echoed in a Letter to the Editor for the attention of Judy Simmons, president of the BOA, by Jay Kempe, who not only represented Bermuda in the Tornado class in Barcelona with brother Reid, but also held positions on the BOA board and the Athletes Commission.
“In my capacity as an Olympian, former BOA board member, former member of the BOA standards committee and original chairman of Bermuda's Athletes Commission, I strongly encourage you to reconsider your position and allow these two young swimmers to join the Bermuda team,” Kempe wrote. “I believe you are making an unnecessary and unfortunate error in not allowing this fortunate development to occur.
“Everyone understands that attending one’s first Olympics is a learning experience and that this can only lead on to better performances in any second Olympics, particularly in young athletes.
“I fully appreciate that standards are standards but the goal should always be to allow participation and in circumstances where special invitations are forthcoming, they should not be shunned.”
Kempe evoked memories of the father of the modern Olympic Games by adding: “This is an appropriate time to remember Pierre de Coubertin's wise words … ‛Not to have won, but to have fought well’.
“These two young Bermuda athletes will not let us down.”