While the newly formed International Swimming League (ISL) is gaining momentum, having identified ONEflow Aquatic as its first German team, various national aquatic federations are still wrestling with the possible implications of their top athletes going against FINA in their bid to spur on the evolution of the sport of swimming.
Along with British swimmer Adam Peaty, Australia’s Cate Campbell has vocalized her animosity towards swimming’s governing body, saying last month that, “FINA have forgotten that they exist because of athletes.”
“FINA is not supporting us, they are putting swimmers at the bottom of their priority list.”
In light of the fact that the idea of Olympic bans for athletes who compete in ISL events this year is still lurking in the air, Swimming Australia Chief Executive Leigh Russell is initiating talks to try to avoid devastation in 2020.
“The thing that worries me is the politicking that seems to be going on between ISL and FINA, so I am concerned that Swimming Australia could be caught in the middle of something that isn’t really of our making,” Russell told The Australian this week.
“It could be a distraction to be really blunt. If there was a way for ISL and FINA to work together and provide opportunity for our swimmers globally, that would be the best outcome. But I think the politics has the capacity to stand in the way of solid performances at the Olympic Games.”
Russell is hoping to collaborate with Commonwealth nations, as well as the U.S., to forge a compromise that will ‘restore order to the sport, while also allowing about 300 swimmers worldwide to benefit from the ISL‘s premise.’
“[A compromise] would certainly be ideal,” she said. “Our job as a federation is to do the best thing by our sport and by our people and that focus is exactly the focus of the US, the UK, Canada and so on.
“There will be, when there needs to be, differences of opinion, — no problem with that — but an issue like this, which has the capacity to derail Olympic campaigns if it got very political, we would probably use the strength of each other to formulate our viewpoint.
“I definitely don’t want Swimming Australia to be looking like we’re siding with anyone except our own people, but I also want our own people to go eyes wide open into anything new. I feel I have a responsibility to the athletes to find out more and to then provide sound advice so that they are not caught up in something that is bigger than them.”
Regardless of what ultimate outcome transpires from the current situation, Russell acknowledges that change is inevitable in today’s sporting landscape.
“Sport is changing and really going through a period of transition and evolution, maybe even revolution, and maybe this is the start of it for swimming,” she said. “When something like the ISL comes along, it’s sort of like the perfect storm, young people wanting to earn a living. And they look at the AFL and they say, ‘Gosh, I wouldn’t mind some of that excitement as well’.
“Whether the ISL is the answer I don’t know at this stage, but what is happening and evolving is that we have to look at different formats and offerings and making sure we are capturing every opportunity that we can.” (Zwemza/The Australian)