The Mexican sports pages have been filled with news this last couple of days saying that Alejandra Valencia had been “queda fuera del equipo nacional“ i.e. dropped from the national team, after she apparently failed to attend a training camp in Mexico City prior to the country’s first Olympic squad selection trials.
Senior coach Lee Wong said: “Alejandra Valencia did not show up and therefore her right (to be automatically selected) was lost, and now she must compete on Saturday and Sunday to re-enter.” It seems she is able to join the other athletes invited for selection, but has been knocked down a level or two.
Alejandra said to the press: “I was never sent official notice of anything, just by WhatsApp. If they had given me a plan of what will happen, I would not complain and accept it… but I did not receive anything. ” She also stated she has not had any sporting interactions with the head coach at all.
It appears that Alejandra received a message on short notice through WhatsApp for an pre-training camp meet in Mexico City for the Games selection, but not any official notice or details, and then either “refused” to go or simply did not have enough notice to drop school and family to do so. Reports in the press seem to indicate a lack of clarity in the selection process, or at least a failure in communications.
Ale’s main concern is that she wants to train at home in Sonora with her own coach (where the conditions are apparently very similar to Rio) rather than remain at a lengthy training camp, which is reportedly supposed to continue right up until the Rio Games.
Some of the other athletes have spoken out about the lengthy training camp with an interesting mix of determination and resignation. Luis Álvarez said: “It’s not about being comfortable, it’s about doing what you have to do, wherever and whenever that is.” Karla Hinojosa said “I had to leave my school, my family, my coach and my boyfriend, with the goal of realising my dream of making it to the Olympics.”
Senior coach Lee Wong seems to be very invested in conditioning the archers to train in Rio-like conditions. Once the training center in Mexico City closes at the end of the year, the archers will move to a camp in Playa del Carmen (on the Yucatan Peninsula) for the heat and humidity; the archers will also be headed to Vegas in January and the final national team will be determined at the conclusion of the early 2016 World Cup stages.
There have been well-documented issues in Mexican archery recently, with ongoing financial and management issues between the governing body and the national Olympic committee (CONADE). Whether this issue is related to that drama is unclear.
Many elite athletes have succeeded at the Games over the years by staying outside (or partially outside) an official programme, and many others have been deselected for the same reasons. It would be a disaster for Mexico if their women’s squad – a good shot for a medal – lost one of their strongest competitors with Olympic experience, and the sport generally would be much poorer without Ale, the 2011 Pan-American champion. Let’s hope Mexican archery gets its act together as soon as possible.
Thanks to Dario Maciel for assistance.