Gay swimmer misses out on opportunity to represent Jamaica at Tokyo Olympics

27-year-old Michael Gunning is still coming to terms with the fact that he will not have the chance to represent Jamaica at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.  

Gunning had his hopes of representing the Caribbean island  dashed when the International Swimming Federation (FINA) made the decision to allocate Jamaica only one ‘universality place’ for the games.

The ‘universality place’  typically allows smaller nations to send athletes to the games outside of the usual qualifying criteria. 

According to Gunning, not being able to compete in the Tokyo games has left him 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,“ said Gunning in a post on his personal  blog. 

“With a lifetime of work put into one moment, it’s hard to digest the emotional struggle in both reflecting on my career’s proudest achievements, and the harsh realities of elite sport, “ he added. 

Gunning went on to explain that it was a combination of factors that derailed his plans , many of which he attributed to the pandemic, lack of adequate training and change in the qualifying standards.

“Team Jamaica had no jurisdiction to the leniency of government laws and regulations here in the UK during the lockdowns, while British Swimming / Team GB have not been able to help/assist me as an ‘elite athlete’ within their training facilities – as I no longer represent Team GBR internationally. Together, this combination forced to reside as an ‘elite’ swimmer training solo with no coach for 28 weeks during the UK lockdown, and I was further denied access to multiple Fina qualifying competitions (inside and outside the UK) due to government laws and ‘terms and conditions’ of international athletes, Gunning explained. 

“To top everything off, the federation at FINA changed the qualifying standard of the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games, and replaced the 2020 FINA Points System with a new ‘FINA 2021 Points Scale’, that resulted in my overall points being reduced (by 17 points) in the 200M Butterfly event,” he added. 

Gunning who was raised in the UK and previously represented Great Britain, later switched to representing Jamaica (the country of his father’s birth) in 2016.

Since making his international debut for the Caribbean island at the 2017 World Championships, Gunning set national records in the 200m butterfly 200m and 400m freestyle events.

Gunning was a participant in the reality dating show The Bi Life where he came out as gay on the show in late 2018.