SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The 10-year-old Bahraini girl who competed at this month’s world championships in Russia could end up holding a record that will never be beaten if swimming officials push ahead with plans to close the loophole that allowed her to race.
Despite failing to reach the minimum qualifying standards, Alzain Tareq became the youngest competitor ever to race at the championships when she competed in the heats of the women’s 50-meter freestyle and 50m butterfly at Kazan earlier this month.
She was allowed to compete because of a rule which permits each nation to have some limited representation but does not have any age restrictions.
Hopelessly out of her depth, the pint-sized Tareq finished 105th in freestyle and last in butterfly but became one of the feel-good stories of the championships, attracting international media attention.
However, swimming’s world governing body FINA is now considering adding a clause on minimum ages at future world championships.
FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu told Reuters at the junior world swimming championships, currently taking place in Singapore, that the loophole could be closed before the end of the year.
“We have age rules for the juniors, and for all the other disciplines at the world championships, but in swimming we don’t have limits,” Marculescu said.
“Now this story has come up, probably we will look at this at our next (FINA) meeting we have in November in Dubai.”
Although Tareq was allowed to swim at the senior world championships, she is still too young to swim at the junior worlds because the minimum age for girls is 14.
Not everyone was taken by Tareq’s participation in Russia, with FINA facing criticism for letting her swim at the sport’s marquee event.
“There are some positives still there,” Marculescu said.
“It depends on how you want to look at it. There are two sides of the coin, do you want to look at the positive one or the negative one?”
Editing by John O'Brien