Hungarian swimming star Katinka Hosszu has openly criticised Fina, the sport’s global governing body, for introducing regulations that limit the number of World Cup events athletes can enter, and called on fellow swimmers to take a stand against the move.
Hosszu won three gold medals at the 2016 summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and, according to the Reuters news agency, has collected more than $300,000 (€269,300) in prize money in each of the last three years.
However, despite her dominance of the sport in recent years, Hosszu has hit out at the decision by Fina to bring in the new regulations regarding the World Cup series, accusing the organisation of taking direct action against her success.
Writing in an open letter on her official Facebook page, the 28-year-old said no other sport has such rules in place and the restrictions could negatively impact the future of swimming.
“The World Cup has huge potential, but the planned new rule changes are destructive and hypocritical,” Hosszu said. “These rules are risking the future of our sport.
“Will the NBA (National Basketball Association) limit one of its biggest stars, LeBron James, in his eighth participation in the big final next year? Will the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) try to remind (Rafael) Nadal and (Roger) Federer that their time is over?
“As one of the current faces of swimming, I should be focused on preserving and extending my career by not taking on too many events and not having my image being overused. Instead, here I am fighting to be allowed to swim as much as I want and to continue to popularise my sport.”
Hosszu’s comments come ahead of Fina’s 2017 World Aquatics Championships, which will take place in her home city of Budapest. Although Hosszu stopped short of calling for a boycott of the event, she said that the sport “must learn” from a similar situation that hit the Wimbledon tennis tournament in 1973.
A number of professional players walked out of Wimbledon that year in protest of the decision to bar Yugoslavian Nikola Pilic from competing because of a ban issued by his national association.
“We must learn from the boycott of Wimbledon, because without them there wouldn’t be greats like Agassi, Federer, or Djokovic,” Hosszu said. “Their message is crystal clear: we have to stand up for ourselves, we don’t have to let them decide without us, when and where we compete and for how much money.
“If the rules – which they create without asking for our opinion – are harmful, illogical and pointless, we have to stand up for what we believe in because that’s our responsibility. We need to form a union.
“The opportunity has always been right in front of us. But it is up to us to take the chance. Just like in any performance, we all have to start this together, but instead of us competing against each other, this time we have to fight together as one.”
She added: “It’s not an exaggeration to say that Fina is in chaos. There is the lack of transparency in the financials, the constantly changing rules, and leaders with no vision. At first it may seem a bit scary, but this is the time for us, the swimmers, to do something about the future of our sport. We wouldn’t need to be pioneers; there are so many inspiring examples from other sports before us.”