An Israeli swimmer has been denied a spot on the team that will compete at the European Swimming Championship because he is an Arab, his father claimed.
"My son dreams of representing Israel, but the (Israel Swimming) Association won't send him to the European championship because he is an Arab," Jowan Qupty's father, Mazen Qupty, said.
Jowan Qupty, 22, has been excluded from the 100x4 mixed relay that is set to take place at the European Swimming Championship next month in Debrecen, Hungary, even though his result in the 100m breaststroke was better than that of Imri Ganiel, who was picked to compete in the event. Ganiel is to participate in the race alongside Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or (freestyle), Alon Mendel (butterfly) and Guy Barnea or Jonatan Kopelev (backstroke).
Jowan Qupty in action (Photo: Yuval Chen)
Niether Qupty nor Ganiel qualified to compete in the championship's 100m individual event; Ganiel qualified for the 50m individual event.
"It's unpleasant," Qupty said in a phone interview this week. "As the country's fastest swimmer in the 100m breaststroke event this year, all I'm asking for is a chance to represent Israel in the European championship. The team has a chance of reaching the Olympics and that's important to the state, so why shouldn't it send the swimmer who achieved the best result?
"(…) It's important to stress that I greatly appreciate Imri and I'm not talking about replacing him at the competition. I'm just asking them to do the right thing and send both of us."
Association denies discrimination
In similar cases in the past, Qupty said, both swimmers were sent to compete.
"Now everything has been turned upside down. I really hope it's not because I'm Arab," he said.
The nationalistic undertone is not new to Israel's swim scene. Swimmer Gal Nevo said after beating his Syrian and Lebanese competitors during last summer's world championships in Shanghai that "Every Israeli knows you must defeat Arabs."
"When I heard what Gal said, I was shocked," Qupty recalled. "Why does it matter if you're competing against a Jewish, an Arab or an Indian?"
Officials at the Greater Jerusalem Swimming Club, to which Qupty belongs, speculated that Ganiel was picked because he belongs to the Hapoel Jerusalem team, which is said to be groomed by the Israel Swimming Association's president, Noam Zvi.
"It's unacceptable for the association to forgo our fastest swimmer due to politics," Greater Jerusalem Swimming Club Chairman Manu Maye said.
Officials at the Israel Swimming Associations denied discriminating against Qupty.