Just a week ago it seemed as though all complaints had been worked out between Spain’s biggest swimming star Mireia Belmonte and the club where she trained for the Olympics CN Sabadell, and that this would result in her remaining to train there through the Rio Olympics in 2016. Apparently, though, the announcement that Belmonte would remain in Barcelona for training was not confirmed by both sides, as CN Sabadell announced yesterday in a statement that they would part ways with their superstar swimmer.
Belmonte won two silver medals in London, in the 200 fly and the 800 free, making her the first ever Spanish-born female swimmer to medal at the Games, and only the fourth Spanish swimming medalist ever. It seems as though the heart of the issue between Belmonte and the club’s Board of Directors, who didn’t get along as it was, surrounded Belmonte’s expectation that she would receive an increased salary for her efforts.
In a press conference after the announcement, Belmonte would say (translated) that ” I thought I deserved improved salary for improved results. The amounts requested were not millions, but the club has not accepted.”
“When I went to the meeting asked for an increase of my tab because I thought I deserved it, they said they were in (financial) crisis, like the rest of the country, and I agreed with them,” Belmonte continued. The nonsense quantities that they say I’m asking, that’s not true. I would have accepted a salary of 2200 euros (2800 dollars) a month.”
It would seem, though, that the issues have gone much deeper. The club complained of rudeness by Belmonte at a local ceremony to honor Olympians from the area, and that Belmonte ignored her fellow competitors and skipped a post-ceremony celebratory dinner. Belmonte responded that she was simply late to the ceremony because her parents both had to work, and that they skipped the dinner because she started studies at University the next morning and wanted to be focused.
Usually in situations like these, we might see a disagreement between swimmer and coach, however in this case it is the club concerned about their pay and image. Belmonte’s coach Fred Vergnoux, who is signed on to remain in Barcelona through the Rio Olympics, tried to play mediator between the sides to no avail. He is also the coach to other Spanish Olympians, including Judit Ignacio and the newly-returned Aschwin Wildeboer.
It seems as though perhaps this issue may not be totally dead, however. A quick run through the headlines on the home page of the Royal Spanish Swimming Federation quickly makes it apparent that they know who their cashcow is in the biggest of the aquatics disciplines (though in Spain, at least, synchronized swimming holds a lofty position as well). They have hinted publicly that they may step in and try to reach an agreement to both keep Belmonte training in Spain, where she is more present and accessible to their swimming public, as well as to continue the training that has brought her so much success.
“We are very concerned. We want to resolve this situation.’s With what has happened at CN Sabadell, the solution will not be easy,” the federation’s chief Luis Villanueva said in a statement to Spain’s La Xarxa. “If mediation can help to break the deadlock, we will offer our services.”
Some rumors have had her going to Brazil, perhaps, where she’s developed a bit of a cult-following after a magnificent performance at this year’s Maria Lenk Trophy where she broke the Spanish Record in the 400 free. In a country that is both swimming-insane and lacks much in the way of stars on the women’s side, there could be great commercial opportunities for her there.