By John Lingard
SYDNEY, May 9. ATLANTA Olympic bronze medal backstroker, Stephen Dewick, has become the first Australian swimmer to consider turning to the courts over the controversial new bodysuits.
Dewick, who is not a member of Australia's shadow Olympic squad,last night warned that unless he received a new suit that enabled him to compete on a level footing at the Olympic trials, starting on Saturday, he would challenge the selection process.
Speedo, official outfitter to the national team, has
undertaken to supply its new FastSkin to all 160 members of the shadow Olympic squad. But Dewick is one of a further 300 Trials competitors who are on the outer edge. After winning gold and silver at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, then bronze as part of the medley relay team in Atlanta, the 23-year-old from Gosford has battled huge odds to try to make the Sydney Games.
"I dislocated my kneecap when I fell on a concrete path
going to training just after the Atlanta Olympics," said Dewick. "It is the subject of a court action at present. If I had a knee reconstruction, I would be nothing more than a social swimmer in two years' time. Since Atlanta, I just missed selection for the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and had two operations before the Pan Pacs."
Dewick said of his failed attempts to get a FastSkin
suit: "After a frustrating three months of failing to get a bodysuit from Speedo, I tried Australian Swimming. They told me I wasn't good enough to be on the shadow team. I was getting nowhere until I mentioned we were going to the press. All of a sudden, I get four calls from Speedo. Now they are saying one might arrive on Thursday or Friday. I race on Sunday.
"I don't care if I come first or last but I could have
done without the stress of the last month. They should either call the Trials off until everyone gets a bodysuit or they should allow no one to wear one.
"If I feel my chance of qualifying has been jeopardised
by not wearing a suit, I will mount a legal challenge. Here's Kieren Perkins complaining he has not been personally fitted with one. For a while he could not get one, either."
Australian Swimming media manager Ian Hanson said Dewick had not met any squad-selection criteria in the pasttwo years, adding: "He was sent an Olympic availability form and Games contract, which everyone who is swimming in the Trials has to sign, but told AS he was having second thoughts about competing because of the bodysuit drama.
"Speedo worked with him through the Aquablade program in 1996. He was measured and tested for the suit back
then but when it came to the Games, he never wore the
Hanson said Speedo would try to supply one for Dewick,
but added: "Their priority is to provide 160 for the
shadow Olympic squad, which started out at 130 but has
been gradually increased.
"There have been a dozen others who have requested suits but are not members of the squad. They could have to pay anything from $200 to $600 for these but orders have been placed by Speedo with their headquarters in London."
Dewick started his Olympic preparations six months ago with the help of former champion boxer Troy Waters.
"Troy has been unbelievable," he said. "He saved my
career. He helped me lose 14kg (31 lbs). We run around the roads at 8:30 at night. I wouldn't be doing that if I didn't think I had a chance at the Trials. There is no way I would put myself through all this stress and drama if I didn't love swimming. It means a lot more to me than money. The funny thing is, I run a
learn-to-swim school which has a contract with Speedo.
I thought that would help me get a bodysuit – but it
hasn't. I don't mind having to pay for one but I'm still waiting."