A truly unfortunate mistake on the part of the Polish Swimming Federation (PZP) caused six swimmers to return home from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics without competing and before the opening ceremony.
Per the qualifying rules, they were meant to send only 17 swimmers. Due to an administrative error, they sent 23 instead.
Several events took place leading up to their travels to Japan, yet no one knew of the error until they had already arrived.
The athletes who were sent back included Alicja Tchórz, Mateusz Chowaniec, Aleksandra Polańska, Dominika Kossakowska, Jan Hołub and Bartosz Piszczorowicz.
Alicja Tchórz was on track to participate in her third Olympic games.
Tchórz spoke in an interview with Reuters:
"I'm sad, I'm angry, I'm hurt, I am hopeless. I cannot even describe what I feel."
"It is not like we only work for two or three weeks to get ready for the Olympics."
"We work hard for several months or years. We make sacrifices, putting training before family life."
She also wrote on Facebook:
"Imagine dedicating five years of your life and striving for another start at the most important sporting event, giving up your private life and work, sacrificing your family and your dedication results in a total flop."
Mateusz Chowaniec wrote on Instagram:
"I'm deeply shocked by what happened."
"This is an absurd situation for me that should never have happened."
"In fact, I hope to wake up from this nightmare eventually."
The swimmers sent home signed an open letter addressing the issue, ultimately asking the board of the Polish Swimming Federation to resign. In addition to the six swimmers, 16 others have signed.
The letter said:
"Recent incidents have destroyed the trust."
"Several of us had to come back to Poland because of the neglect, and our dream of becoming Olympians have been taken away from us."
"The actions of the Association led to an unprecedented event in the history of Polish sport," the letter states, via Swim Swam.
"In addition, Polish swimming – both in the eyes of the public and potential sponsors – has been exposed as a laughing stock. and it will have a glaring effect on all competitors who compete in the white and red colors on a daily basis.
"We appeal to the president and the entire board to resign immediately."
Federation President Pawel Slominski apologized for the mistake:
"I express great regret, sadness and bitterness about the situation."
"Such a situation should not take place, and the reaction of the swimmers, their emotions, the attack on the Polish Swimming Federation is understandable to me and justified."
Many are heartbroken over this unfortunate incident.
President Pawel Slominski said the PZP would face the consequences if the swimmers were to pursue legal action.