No apologies given, no explanations offered
Troy Media – by Kelly McKenzie
This past week a team of female athletes encountered obstacles that proved beyond their control. As a result, they were unable to achieve their desired goal of a win.
Of course, one could naturally assume I’m referring to the Canadian women’s soccer team. However, I’m not. This is a smaller story about a relay team of four swimmers aged seven to 10.
Last weekend the regional qualifying swim meet was held for the five summer swim clubs in our region. Qualifiers earned the coveted right to participate in the summer swim club 2012 Provincial Championships swim meet being held in Nanaimo next week.
The four girls in question are from our club and comprise one of our two “division two girls” freestyle relay teams. Division two is the group of swimmers aged nine to 10 and a half. As they are much younger than my two teenagers I know very little about them, other than the fact that the seven year old is “swimming up” with the three older girls.
The team placed a decisive first in the morning preliminary swims. With only the top two teams per division advancing to Provincials, this was a promising start. In the afternoon they confidently headed off to check in for finals and into the marshalling area to await their race.
The marshalling area is reminiscent of a holding pen. Swimmers, under the guidance of a marshaller, advance up the rows of benches as the races ahead of them are swum. It’s here that things first went awry. As the race just ahead of theirs finished, the leadoff swimmer awaited the call to join her competitors on the starting blocks. It never came. The team watched in amazement as the four other leadoff swimmers assumed their diving positions.
Realizing her team was in danger of missing the race, our tiny seven year old leadoff swimmer frantically tugged on the marshaller’s arm. This effort was dismissed with a curt “shhh!” and a dismissive wave. The woman’s full attention was on the race to come. With four swimmers standing ready on the blocks, the middle lane, our swimmers’ lane, remained empty. Amazingly the three adult timers working this lane continued to be oblivious to the fact that they had no swimmer in position.
Horrified, panic rising in her throat, the leadoff swimmer called out to the gentleman who was in charge of starting the race. He rewarded her call for attention with a shake of his head and a frustrated glare, and blew his whistle to start the event. Four swimmers dived in and the race was on. Without our girls.
Battling the shock of not being allowed to participate and knowing they were now disqualified, the four shattered team mates stumbled out of marshalling towards their apoplectic coach. Choking on tears, they desperately tried to explain their lack of participation. At first too angry to discern the truth, she finally grasped the situation and dashed away to begin the lengthy, complicated procedures necessary for an official protest.
I don’t envy anyone involved in the protest process. The confusing rule book is consulted, the participants are interviewed and a decision is rendered without the benefit of instant replays. Interestingly, in this particular situation, not one of the swimmers was called on to explain their side of the story.
At the end of the meet a decision was rendered. The girls were granted a possible reprieve. They could swim the race and potentially earn the right to go to Provincials. There was just one one proviso. They had to achieve or better the provincial qualifying time of 2.29.64 minutes.
The provincial qualifying time (pqt) is a golden ticket. As mentioned, only the fastest two relay teams make it to Provincials. However, should a team achieve a pqt while finishing third or higher in finals, they win an automatic entry; obviously, the teams that beat them have also have achieved a pqt with their faster times.
Long story short, the girls swam, long after the other clubs had left the pool. With just our club members cheering them on, the girls swam their hearts out and beat the pqt by a solid four seconds. Surely this would ensure their inclusion. Unfortunately not. The provincial appeals committee cannot get beyond the fact the girls missed their race.
I understand the rule. What I don’t understand is how adults can stand back and not admit to making a mistake. In this case a series of mistakes were made. Yet no apologies were given, no explanations were offered. Is this a shining example for our athletes? I think not.