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FINA refuses swimmer's Outgames records

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 4th June 2011

Kirsten Cameron proudly wearing a medal at the Outgames pool
The world's governing swimming body has left a swimmer feeling completely gutted, in flatly refusing to recognise the three masters records she smashed in the pool at the Asia Pacific Outgames in Wellington in March.

Wellington's Kirsten Cameron broke global records for her 35-to-39 age group in the 400-metre, 800m and 1500m events. "It was all fantastic, I swam really, really well, everyone was thrilled," says the straight swimmer, who entered the Outgames for the chance to compete on the world stage.

"There was an article in the Dom on me and everything. And then they sent the application forms off to FINA [Fédération Internationale de Natation] and FINA returned them to New Zealand Masters and said 'we won't ratify this because we don't recognise the meet'."

The swimming events at the Outgames were run professionally, with proper timekeepers and starters, and sanctioned by FINA member New Zealand Masters, as specified in the FINA rule book, and run by Swim Wellington.

Cameron was initially told by New Zealand Masters that FINA had ruled the records would not stand because there were non-registered swimmers competing at the Outgames, something she says is completely untrue.

"It was run as professionally as any meet in New Zealand can be," Cameron says. "There's no question about it," she adds. "Everyone had to be registered, that was part of the application process when you entered." She told this to New Zealand Masters, and then went straight to FINA herself to find out more. She was told in an email from FINA 'it doesn't matter that it was sanctioned, we don't recognise the meet'. She queried that further, saying in FINA's rule book it specifies that it will recognise meets sanctioned by the New Zealand Masters.

Ultimately she was told it was because FINA will not recognise meets that are run for third parties. "I went back and said 'can you please tell me

where that policy has come from, it's not published anywhere. It's not in your rule book, it's not mentioned anywhere on your website'. And then in addition to that 'how do you define a third party?' And I've had no response from that."

Cameron says she has been told by an acquaintance that at the end of the day, FINA is a big organisation with a lot of money and if it doesn't want to listen it won't. However she is taking the same determined attitude to the situation as she does to the pool, engaging a lawyer to officially request that her records be ratified in a letter to FINA.

"I feel absolutely gutted," says Cameron. "I feel really, really let down. The thing is that as you're getting older, it's getting really hard to get faster. And I don't have a chance to do those swims. I don't have a chance to do the 1,500 long-course until next year and I'm going to be a year older.

"And the other disappointment is in writing the letter to FINA, Swimming New Zealand, which is the overall body in New Zealand, they endorsed the letter, but New Zealand Masters wouldn't. And that's really, really upsetting as well."

Cameron says her Masters club has been supportive and fantastic, as have Wellington queer Masters club Different Strokes and Outgames Swimming Coordinator Martin Kaulbach. "But the fact that New Zealand Masters, who are the ones that sanctioned the meet in the first place, wouldn't put their name in to endorse a letter, was really, really disappointing."

The Asia Pacific Outgames are not the first gay sports event to run into problems with FINA - records from the Gay Games in Cologne last year were not ratified either.

International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) representative to the Gay Games WonKee Moon says it was also on the grounds that the event was swum at a "competition hosted by a third party".

"It is my understanding that a few years ago, FINA decided that it would not recognized times swum in competitions 'hosted by a third party' such as Outgames or Gay Games, even though these events have been sanctioned by FINA-member national swimming bodies," he says.

"We have been trying to get more information from FINA to see if we can correct the situation, but so far, they seem unwilling to communicate with us.

"It also appears that this rule has been applied somewhat inconsistently in the past, as FINA has recognised times from some competitions hosted by third parties. However, I don't believe their rejection of times swum at Outgames and Gay Games is the result of prejudice. Their actions do, however, make these competitions less inviting to those swimmers who wish to break world records, which is unfortunate." Daily News has as yet had no response to its request to FINA for clarification of the situation.

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