Ghana slider Akwasi Frimpong’s coaches on Friday again asked the International Olympic Committee to reinstate continental quota spots in in bobsleigh and skeleton in time for next month’s Beijing Games, saying anything less ‘wipes out diversity’.
Frimpong and Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo became the first African skeleton racers to compete at the Olympics in 2018 thanks to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation’s (IBSF) continental quota system.
However, the system has been dropped and while Frimpong’s coaches have already asked the IOC to reinstate it, they were told this week that it would not happen nL1N2TT2AN.
In the latest email to IOC President Thomas Bach and Sports Director Kit McConnell, they said African athletes have a less equal playing field in Winter Olympic sports than at the Summer Games and the qualifying system does not take that into account.
“As you may be aware this hardship, even if unintended by IOC’s approval of quota reductions, completely wipes out diversity in sliding sports,” says the letter seen by Reuters.
“The IOC approved quota reductions will lead to a direct loss of diversity in Beijing 2022 and beyond. How can that be acceptable to the IOC and IBSF? But you can correct this and it’s not too late.”
The IOC told Frimpong’s coaches the qualification process for the Beijing Olympics was proposed and approved by IBSF in 2019 and any change would imply the exclusion of another athlete qualified in the current system.
But in Friday’s email to the IOC, the coaches said the qualification system currently in place means diversity in sliding sports is worse than four years ago.
“Competing in the Olympics moving forward is nothing more than a fleeting dream for anyone desiring to represent an African continental nation with no firmly established program capable of providing the necessary support and adequate consistent coaching needed to be competitive,” the email read.
“Unfortunately, it quickly turns into a nightmare once athletes realize the hurdles they must clear in order to compete with athletes who have programs that are well funded and have much easier access to sliding facilities and professional coaching.”
Frimpong was just outside the skeleton top 60, a prerequisite to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, when his chances faded after he tested positive for COVID-19 and missed his last three qualifying races.
Four years ago, Frimpong qualified for the Pyeongchang Olympics via the quota system despite being ranked 99th.
Frimpong’s coaches also wrote to the IBSF on Friday seeking its support in getting an immediate reinstatement of the continental quota spots for the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Olympics.
“We request this reinstatement be only for athletes who have proven to be qualified competitive athletes,” the email said.
“The Olympic flag represents all five continents and right now one ring is glaringly missing in sliding sports.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)