Heemskerk And Van Roon To Swim-Off In Eindhoven For Second 50 Free Spot On Tokyo Team

Femke Heemskerk Pos 3 Netherlands_1
Femke Heemskerk: Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Femke Heemskerk and Valerie van Roon will go head to head at the Eindhoven Qualification Meet in April to resolve who will claim the second 50m freestyle berth for the Tokyo Olympics.

The issue arose when Heemskerk was forced to miss the Rotterdam Qualification Meet in December after her partner tested positive for Covid-19.

Heemskerk, who won gold as part of the Netherlands’ 4×100 free relay quartet at Beijing 2008, had previously clocked 24.71 at the 2019 Swim Cup Amsterdam meaning she would take the second 50 free spot along with Ranomi Kromowidjojo as long as no-one went quicker.

However, she was forced to look on as Van Roon went inside 25 seconds for the first time in 24.63 in Rotterdam to claim the second spot and oust Heemskerk in the process.

It prompted an emotional post from Van Roon on social media:

The matter wasn’t over however and the Royal Dutch Swimming Federation (KNZB) disciplinary committee upheld Heemskerk’s appeal last month.

Following mediation with both swimmers it has now been decided the pair will have the opportunity to record a faster time on 9 April in Eindhoven with the times they’ve already recorded still standing.

A statement from the KNZB read:

“Femke Heemskerk will have a last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in the 50-meter freestyle during the Eindhoven Qualification Meet on Friday, April 9.

“Valerie van Roon may defend her position in the same match.

“This ‘solution’ is the result of a mediation with both swimmers after an impasse arose around the qualification for this part.

“Following a procedure initiated by Heemskerk, the disciplinary committee of the KNZB ruled that due to force majeure Heemskerk had not been able to participate in the Rotterdam Qualification Meet on December 6 due to force majeure (due to a positive Corona test from her husband). An unfair situation vis-à-vis its competitors.

“Valerie van Roon swam in Rotterdam with 24.63 a personal record with which she met the qualification standard in the 50 meter freestyle behind Ranomi Kromowidjojo.

“Because the two fastest time per distance were nominated for selection to Tokyo, Heemskerk (who had 24.71 as fastest time) was left out.”

Femke Heemskerk (photo: Mike Lewis)

Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS / ISL

Technical director André Cats underlined the need to get the matter resolved with the Olympics now less than 150 days away while also acknowledging the impact on Heemskerk and Van Roon.

He said:

“The KNZB intended to appeal against the decision of the disciplinary committee because we continue to believe that you cannot take into account all individual COVID cases in the qualification procedure for Tokyo.

“At the same time, it is important to resolve this matter as quickly as possible in the run-up to the Games, especially in the interest of the swimmers involved. That is why a solution direction has been proposed to Valerie and Femke.

“These kinds of issues consume the energy of top athletes. As a sports association you obviously do not want athletes to end up in such nerve-racking situations. It is therefore good that there is now clarity about what to do next.

“Especially for Valerie, who after a very strong race in Rotterdam thought she was sure of Tokyo, the situation is very unpleasant.”

The Eindhoven meet is a chance for swimmers to book any slots that remain available on the Netherlands team for the Olympics as well as the European Championships in Budapest in May.

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