Ous Mellouli to Compete in Tokyo Olympics After All After Intervention from Tunisian Olympic Committee President

Tunisia's Ous Mellouli -- Photo Courtesy: Qatar Swimming

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Ous Mellouli to Compete in Tokyo Olympics After All After Intervention from Tunisian Olympic Committee President

Days after Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli said he would be skipping the Tokyo Olympics after a legal battle with the Tunisian swimming federation, he has now confirmed he will compete in the 10k open water race as originally planned. Mellouli announced the decision on his Instagram account and separately confirmed the news to Swimming World.

Mellouli wrote his Instagram caption in Arabic, but according to a translation of the text, Tunisian Olympic Committee president Mehrez Boussain “pledged to settle the dispute between me and the Tunisian Swimming Federation after the Tokyo Olympics and insisted on me participating in the marathon final on August 5.” Mellouli qualified for the race after finishing 10th in the marathon qualifying swim in Setubal, Portugal, on June 20.

“President Bossian believes in my abilities to honor Tunisia and ascend the first places in Tokyo and pledged to provide the necessary and appropriate conditions for the Olympic champion to prepare for the Paris Olympics 2024 if I was able to do so,” Mellouli said in his Instagram post (via Google Translate). “I am grateful to the Olympic Committee for this diplomatic intervention and this high sportsmanship that, if you apply, will not be rejected or rejected.”

Mellouli told Swimming World that in addition to Boussain, FINA President Husain Al Musallam also encouraged him to make every effort to compete in the Olympics, particularly given Mellouli’s status as an icon in the sport.

“The President of FINA gave me great advice to not rush my decision and stay calm and take part in these Olympics. He urged me to make history again in the sport by swimming in a sixth Olympic Games,” Mellouli said. “The President of the National Olympic Committee promised me the problems I have my federation will be settled amicably and diplomatically once we get back from Tokyo. Everything has gone back to normal within 24 hours, and I’m very grateful for that.”

On competing in a sixth Olympics, Mellouli said, “Going to the Games is a tremendous honor and some of the coolest things that can happen to an athlete. Going to six is an incredible thing to do. I’m very grateful that these Olympics will happen. I think a lot of athletes around the world will say this as well. We’re all very grateful to compete in Tokyo in these special circumstances during this pandemic. I’m also very proud to represent my country in these Olympics, and I’m looking forward to racing the best athletes in the world in Tokyo.”

Mellouli has swum at five previous Olympic Games, and he qualified for his first Olympic final in 2004, when he finished sixth in the 400 IM. At his third Olympics in 2008 in Beijing, Mellouli was just returning from an 18-month doping suspension (which Mellouli attributed to taking a stimulant to stay up late and study for exams during his time at USC) that wiped out his results from the 2007 World Championships that included a gold medal in the 800 free and silver in the 400 free. But Mellouli put on an amazing performance in Beijing as he stunned legendary Australian Grant Hackett to win gold in the 1500 free, the first-ever Olympic swimming medal for Tunisia.

Mellouli also won a world title in 2009 in the 1500 free, and then he slowly transitioned to focusing on open water. At thw 2012 Olympics, he earned a bronze medal in the 800 free and then won gold in the 10k just days later. He only competed in open water at the 2016 Olympics, and he finished 12th there in the 10k. Mellouli was in position to contend for a medal in that race, but a physical mix-up with Great Britain’s Jack Burnell ended with both men receiving yellow cards (Burnell’s second, which disqualified him) and Mellouli falling out of contention.

Mellouli will be 37 for the Tokyo Games after he first competed at the Olympics as a 16-year-old in Sydney.

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1 year ago

Congratulations Tunisia!! On Husain’s wonderful win.