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Friday August 30, 2013 MYT 7:30:00 AM
Friday August 30, 2013 MYT 9:00:09 AM
by rajes paul
Chui Lai Kwan: 'If a swimmer qualifies on merit, he or she should be given the right to compete.'
KUALA LUMPUR: It has been almost a month since the swimming World Championships ended in Barcelona but the pain and frustration of being left out in the cold is still felt by Chui Lai Kwan, one of the country’s top swimmers.
And Thursday, the 23-year-old Lai Kwan continued fighting for her rights and that of others as far as the selection of athletes is concerned, in the hope that no other swimmer would experience similar shoddy treatment.
She hopes that by speaking up, the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) would act fairly and show transparency in the selection of athletes in future.
In June, Lai Kwan had qualified for the world meet when she clocked 26.28 to beat the B qualifying mark of 26.29 in the women’s 50m freestyle at the Singapore National Championships.
Although the qualifying deadline for the world meet was July 1, Asum decided not to send her. The national body reasoned that they had set the Malaysia Open in May as the final qualifying platform and refused to budge from that stand.
“The World Championships are over and I cannot change Asum’s decision concerning me. But I do not want this to go on and see another swimmer suffer the same fate. If a swimmer qualifies on merit, he or she should be given the right to compete. That is all I’m saying,” said the Sabahan.
“I am still the best in the country and still hold the national record in the women’s 50m freestyle and qualified on merit, but why close the door on me? I’m not a member of the national team but when I swim, I swim for Malaysia. Everyone should be given an equal chance.
“I’m training on my own and am getting a lot of help and support from Selangor’s elite coach Marilyn Chua. I want to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games next year but, for now, there is no assurance that a swimmer will be selected even if he or she qualifies on merit.”
Lai Kwan, who is also the national record holder of the 100m freestyle and the 100m breaststroke events and two other relay events, hopes that Asum would be supportive of swimmers even if they have chosen to be independent.
The 2007 SEA Games gold medallist quit the national team in 2011 after the World University Games in Shenzhen.
“After the World University Games, I had gone back home to Sandakan. I just wanted to spend extra days with my family. I was upset when I received a letter from Asum saying that disciplinary action would be taken if I did not show up. That was when I decided to leave the national team,” she said.
“Life’s circumstances may not allow us to be in the national team but we still train and work just as hard as anyone else,” added the third year Food Science and Technology student of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Asked if she had any disciplinary issues with Asum which may have caused them to overlook her, she answered: “The only time I skipped training was when it clashed with my studies in UPM. Studies are important to me and it puts athletes-cum-students like me in a spot. Despite these juggling acts, I have still managed to stay at the top.
“The Higher Education Institutions (or IPT for Institut Pengajian Tinggi) cut my sponsorship because I left the national team. I fund my own trips for international tournaments now. It is not easy and it is also frustrating when one is not selected on merit.”
Marilyn, a former Malaysian Olympian, said: “Lai Kwan is not the first to face this. There have been other swimmers too. I just hope that the national body will be fair and give these kids an equal opportunity. Personal differences must be put aside if we want our sportmen and women to produce excellence.
“In the United States, where I lived for 10 years, top swimmers like Michael Phelps train on their own and have their own coaches. Their national body go out of their way to help them even though they are not in the national centralised programme. It is so different here in Malaysia.”
Khairy promises transparency in athlete selection
Tags / Keywords:
swimming, swimmer, Chui Lai Kwan, selection, World Championships, Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia, Asum
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