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A Tale Of Two Games, Two Countries

Jun 21, 2012  - Craig Lord

Paraguay: Benjamín Thomas Hockin Brusquetti, who as Ben Hockin raced for the British 4x100m freestyle quartet that finished last in the final at the Beijing 2008 Games, is racing for Paraguay (him mum's country, his dad is British) at London 2012. His journey as a swimmer in the South American country is somewhat different to the one he would have had on the way to Beijing 2008.

This week saw the launch of a sponsorship and advertising campaign for mobile network Claro with Hockin Brusquetti as the figurehead. The video of the ad campaign was launched with some fanfare: if family, coach and swim teammates contributed to the good wishes for the sprint freestyler as he makes his final preparations for his second Olympic Games, there to lend gravitas to proceedings were deputy sport minister Paulo Reichardt, president of the Paraguayan Olympic Committee Camilo Pérez and swim federation official Juan C. Orihuela.

"Benji", as he is known in Paraguay, exercised his right to swim for the nations of both his parents. That journey was not without trouble: on December 6, 2010 the FINA Disciplinary Panel decided that the swimmer had "committed a rule violation according to FINA Rule C22.4." He was barred from competing for a year, starting May 23, 2010. 

More importantly, FINA fined British Swimming US$500, representing all costs of FINA, and fined the Federación Paraguaya de Natación US$1500. Proper procedure had not been followed but no-one wished to deny the swimmer the right to make a choice far more likely to guarantee him passage to elite waters on the biggest of competitive occasions.

His tale unfolded at a time of debate in Britain over "plastic Brits", a somewhat nauseating campaign by some media in which an American-born track athlete who has chosen to race for her mother's country (Britain) was asked to sing the national anthem. She said she knew the anthem but refused to sing it. Some media argued that she had chosen Britain for convenience not love and that it was wrong to have made her captain of a national team she was new to. Any reasonable argument was somewhat list overtones of what might be likened to Muggle-hatred (for those who have read or watched Harry Potter). It all led to the Daily Mail being barred from UK Athletics events. 

Athletes have long had (and have exercised) their right to compete for one country and then switch to another. Some have done for financial gain, most because they have dual nationality through parentage. 

Hockin Brusquetti, born on September 27, 1986, in Barranquilla, Colombia, identifies with both his parents' countries. On a competitive level, he would not have made the grade for Britain in the 4x100m relay this year, his best this season equivalent to the 9th best in Britain, but over 200m he would have secured a relay berth as third best 200m man in Britain. 

In his new colours he will not race a relay at a half-home Games and enters the 200m freestyle as 33rd best in the world this season. His 1:47.79 in Spain in March set a lifetime best inside the 1:48.06 he clocked at one of his last outings in his old country back in 2009 at ASA nationals, the England event at which Britain is topping up its 2012 Olympic team in Sheffield this week.

Singapore: Tao Li, 22, and Florida-based Joseph Schooling will represent Singapore in swimming at the London 2012 Olympic Games. If Tao Li has raced at Olympic and world-championship level before, 17-year-old Schooling, of the Bolles School, is heading for his first Games. At the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, he took 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze and set one Games and four Singapore records. His 1:56.67 win over 200m butterfly took him inside FINA A cut.

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