Vipa Bernhardt, the swimmer who has boxed her way into court and on to the German Olympic swim team despite being third-best German in the 200m breaststroke, has decided to steer clear of the controversy she has created at home by staying in the United States for the time being.
'There's too much turmoil here at the moment,' Michael Ulmer, the SG Frankfurt sporting director, told SID sports news agency when asked why the swimmer was not returning home as planned. The club won a court injunction on Monday, forcing the German National Olympic Committee (DOSB) to include Bernhardt in the squad for next month's Beijing Games even though she has little chance of actually competing under the IOC's two-per-nation rule.
Bernhardt, who originally planned to return to Germany this week, exploited a bizarre technicality to take her unearned place at the Games: German swimming federation rules allow participation in foreign college or school swimming teams but not foreign clubs. According to those rules, Poleska should not have been allowed to swim at the German national championships. So, the Olympic bronze medallist of 2004 is not to be considered a German because she races for a club in Florida. Lunacy.
Meantime, Bernhardt has delayed her return to Germany but the moment will soon arrive when she has to land in Germany and leave again with her Olympic teammates, including Poleska. An uncomfortable moment in prospect, to say the least.
Dirk Reinicke, head coach at Limmat Sharks in Zürich sent clarification of the rules of engagement in Germany: It is not allowed in Germany ... if you want to race for a German club, you cannot race for a foreign club as well - either one or the other. Many thanks for that clarification Dirk. Perhaps Germany should tweak its rule book: in Britain, for example, some swimmers race for a British club in Britain and at overseas meets, and also race for a French club when competing in France.