MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's artistic swimming team have put bathing suits and towels on sale to pay for their preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport (CONADE) stopped providing financial support.
The crowd-funding project, led by three-times Olympian Nuria Diosdado, caught the attention of businessman Carlos Slim, who is known for providing scholarships to high-performance athletes in disciplines such as tennis, archery, karate and motorsports in which he sponsors F1 driver Sergio Perez.
His support enabled the team to travel to the World Artistic Swimming Championships in Egypt this coming weekend.
"The initiative was born to have a fund for what has to be paid because we don't know how far this situation will go," Diosdado told Reuters.
"We were informed that support will be withdrawn for any sporting event and any competition we have until the political situation is resolved. It is something that we as athletes have no influence on and can do nothing."
In January, CONADE head Ana Guevara, an Olympic silver medallist, announced the cut in funding after World Aquatics created a Stabilising Committee as it did not recognise the president of the Mexican Swimming Federation (FMN), Kiril Todorov, who is facing trial for embezzlement.
The conflict caused aquatic athletes to search for ways to fund their competitions. Other sports have also sought support, the Mexican diving team releasing a video asking for money and Olympic diver Kevin Berlin launching his own brand of coffee to raise donations.
"This (search for funds) is a movement, a shake-up so that they understand that we have the desire to compete, that they have an army of athletes ready, they simply need to move the correct pieces in their desks for this to work," Diosdado added.
World Aquatics expressed its support for the Mexican athletes to participate in the summer world championships in Fukuoka, Japan despite the dispute with the FMN.
"We received a video from the president of World Aquatics (Husain Al-Musallam) in which he said he was aware of the situation and that we could be sure that they were going to pay for 36 athletes to attend the next world championships," Diosdado said.
"We know that this support is for all the aquatic disciplines; in the end, our team is 12 members, and we would see how to use this in case CONADE still can not pay."
Diosdado added that in order to reach their ultimate goal of Paris 2024 the team also needed to earn their berth at this year's Central American Games in El Salvador and the Pan American Games in Chile.
"If we see that the support (from the public) continues and the situation does not move forward, I think this sale could remain as a way of having this type of continuous fundraising support and above all to be as ready as possible for whatever we have to invest in the future," she said.
(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City, additional reporting Janina Nuno, editing by Ed Osmond)