Unfortunately, it looks like Jamaica won’t be getting representation from this gay swimmer. And now, he’s sharing his vulnerable and honest take on the situation.
Raised in the U.K., Michael Gunning is an openly gay swimmer. In 2015, Gunning decided to switch teams to represent Jamaica, where his father was born. Initially, this was a wonderful idea and one that paid off. In 2017, Gunning made his international debut at the World Championships. Michael Gunning even set national records in the 200m butterfly, the 200m freestyle, and the 400m freestyle, according to Queerty.
But now, in a detailed blog post, Gunning shares why he won’t be representing the Caribbean island in the Tokyo Olympics.
“On Friday night, I was hit by some heart-breaking news that has unfortunately left me feeling shocked, gutted and extremely emotional,” Gunning wrote. “Some dreams are simply not meant to come true… and the words I’ve been struggling to say out loud are… ‘I have not made the Olympic Team this Summer.’”
In order to qualify for the Summer Olympics, swimmers must match or best the qualifying time. Countries then send two athletes to represent them per each event. But for small countries who haven’t found an athlete to hit the “A” (for Automatic) qualifying time, they can choose one man and one woman who have enough points in qualifying tournaments.
In his blog post, Gunning shares that he did not get chosen for this year’s competition. He says that because he is based in England but was on Team Jamaica, he did not get assistance when training in facilities purposed for Team Great Britian. This left him training alone. He also found himself locked out of multiple qualifying competitions due to government laws and the “terms and conditions” of international athletes.
As Gunning explained, “To top everything off, the federation at FINA changed the qualifying standard of the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games, and replaced the 2020 FINA Points System with a new ‘FINA 2021 Points Scale’, that resulted in my overall points being reduced (by 17 points) in the 200M Butterfly event.”
“I’ve been ranked Number 1 in Jamaica since 2019, and my ultimate aim this year was to achieve the automatic qualifying time set by FINA, but due to the lack of access and opportunity that was given to me, I only had one chance of performing during this cycle (at the Glasgow Swim Meet in June), and the pressure was too much for me to handle.”
“With Jamaica’s support, and well over 3 weeks ago, I wrote two heartfelt letters to FINA explaining my situation and asking them to consider giving Jamaica another universality place for the Games, in line with the IOC’s promise (and core values) to athletes with the postponement of Tokyo, but unfortunately, I’ve had no response.”
But ever positive, Gunning chose to end his blog post by saying he is thankful for the people who did show up to support him.
“I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported me on my Tokyo Olympic journey. My fight for diversity, equality and inclusion in sport will always be at the forefront of what I do, and my journey is far from over!”
While he won’t be able to participate in the Tokyo Olympics this year and make history as the first openly gay Carribean swimmer at the international competition, he’s happy to at least watch and support his comerades at the games.
“I will be watching the Olympics and my friends, teammates and training partners in awe, as they do us all proud,” he concluded.
Michael Gunning isn’t the only LGBTQ hopeful who won’t be competing at the Olympics this year. American frontrunner Sha’Carri Richardson has also been denied qualification to compete.
In her case, however, she had her qualification revoked after she tested positive in a marijuana test. Richardson shared that she took marijuana to help ease her stress and to also help process the recent death of her mother. That said, the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team chose to remove her anyway so as not to present an unfair exception.
You can read more about Sha’Carri Richardson’s story here.
Source: Richardson’s Blogpost