Swimmer Michael Gunning ‘shocked and gutted’ after Olympics dreams dashed

Swimmer Michael Gunning has said he is “shocked and gutted” after he failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Gunning had spent the last number of years training to represent Team Jamaica at the Tokyo Olympics, but he was hit with “devastating news” at the start of July.

In a blog post, Michael Gunning wrote: “On Friday night, I was hit by some heartbreaking news that has unfortunately left me feeling shocked, gutted and extremely emotional.

“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.’”

Gunning said the news was “hard to digest” after “a lifetime of work put into one moment”.

“I would have loved to create history this summer and be the first openly gay Caribbean swimmer at the Olympics, but instead, I will be watching the Olympics and my friends, teammates and training partners in awe, as they do us all proud,” he wrote.

Michael Gunning wasn’t allowed to use British Swimming training facilities

The swimmer criticised FINA, the federation that governs water sports in the Olympics, for allocating just one “universality place” for Jamaica in the Olympics.

He also noted that the coronavirus pandemic impacted heavily on his ability to train. He was not allowed to use the training facilities of British Swimming and Team GB throughout lockdown as he no longer represents Britain internationally.

The result was that Michael Gunning was left training with no coach for 28 weeks. He said he was also denied access to FINA qualifying competitions both in the UK and abroad due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Furthermore, he pointed out that FINA changed its qualifying standard for the Tokyo Olympics and replaced its 2020 points system with a new scale, meaning his overall points were reduced by 17 in the 200 metre butterfly event.

“I’ve been number one 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),” Gunning wrote.

Michael Gunning said the pressure “was too much to handle”. He has since written to FINA twice asking them to give Jamaica another universality place, but said he has received no response.

The swimmer told PinkNews that it was “heartbreaking to fall at the final hurdle”.

“Sport can be very cruel sometimes, but after overcoming so many obstacles this past year to be in the best shape of my life for the Games, I don’t think it’s properly sunk in yet that I won’t be competing.”

He said he was “really surprised” not to hear back from FINA, saying it would have “eased” his anxieties to know the body had at least considered his unique situation.

“Each nation has to do what they can to protect their athletes, so I can understand why I was never supported here in the UK, but I really don’t think it was fair reduce my overall points when I never had the same opportunities (to train and race) like other athletes did,” Michael Gunning added.

“I’ve turned down so many amazing opportunities these past few years, so I’m going to take a little break from swimming and see what life outside of the pool has in store for me.”