National swimmer Christian Nikles at the World Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia, in this Aug 5, 2015 file photo. Picture: Courtesy of Eric Landa
National swimmer Christian Nikles has emerged as the front runner to replace Tiara Shahril Anwar at the Rio Olympics in August after Tiara pulled out of the Rio 2016 Olympics scholarship programme earlier this month. Picture: BT file
NATIONAL aquatic sports head coach Eric Landa yesterday backed national swimmer Christian Nikles to represent Brunei at August’s Rio Olympics.
The Dutchman’s support of seasoned swimmer Nikles comes after another national swimmer, Tiara Shahril Anwar, pulled out of the Rio 2016 Olympics scholarship programme - a monthly US$1,000 grant awarded by the International Olympic Council (IOC) to help athletes prepare for the Olympics.
Tiara, 19, withdrew from the scholarship programme earlier this month after finding it difficult to balance her academic and sporting commitments while studying in the United States.
Nikles, 18, is the second national swimmer in line to compete at the Olympics through Universality Places as confirmed in an official letter sent by FINA (International Swimming Federation) to Brunei Amateur Swimming Association (BASA) and Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Committee (BDNOC).
Nikles is among the 40 swimmers globally who were awarded a scholarship by the FINA Scholarship Programme and currently holds the national records in the 50m and 100m freestyle, 50m and 200m backstroke, 50m and 100m butterfly, and 200m and 400m individual medley events.
“I can’t think of any reason why Nikles shouldn’t be the next swimmer after Tiara to represent Brunei in the Olympics this summer,” said Landa in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday. “Swimming is a compulsory sport at the Olympics, and FINA has already made a decision to grant both Nikles and Tiara the right to compete at the Games as they have both fulfilled all the requirements.
“If an international governing body of a sport has already made the decision, there shouldn’t be any arguments on the subject - simple! “The Olympic scholarship also serves as an encouragement for these athletes to have something to strive for and to aid their training.
“Tiara pulled out, so there’s only one swimmer left, Christian Nikles,” said Landa. Nikles’ FINA scholarship, which was awarded in March, provides financial support to assist him in preparations and qualification for the Olympics as well as the 13th FINA World Championships (25m) in Windsor, Canada in December.
He is currently pursuing his studies at the Millfield College in the United Kingdom, and during a recent trip back to the sultanate, trained with Landa and the rest of the elite swimmers at the Centre of Excellence (COE) programme. “He is one of the most dedicated athletes in the country,” Landa said.
“Not only have his records proven it, he has been very consistent with his training - be it in the UK or when he’s back home. “He was back in the country three weeks ago and trained with the COE programme, and I can testify that he is in great shape and he will be ready to flag the country in at the Olympics.
“He missed out on the 2012 London Olympics, so this time, I truly hope he will be given that chance - because he deserves it,” Landa added. National sprinters Md Fakhri Ismail and Maizurah Abdul Rahim were the two other recipients of the Rio 2016 Olympics scholarships.
This is only the second time Bruneian athletes have been awarded Olympics scholarships, the first coming ahead of the 2012 London Olympics when national swimmer Anderson Lim Chee Wei and 400m specialist – and Brunei’s first female Olympian – Maziah Mahusin were selected.
A female swimmer was not nominated for the 2012 London Olympics because Brunei did not send any to the 14th FINA World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, a prerequisite to swimming in London.