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ASNOC rumble: At the very least there's a PR problem

patty@samoanews.com

A report in a California newspaper linked to the Samoa News website is prompting an outpouring from the local public calling for a reorganization of the ASNOC- the American Samoa National Olympic Committee.

The Ventura Star is reporting that Alexandra ‘Alex’ Morgan who qualified to represent American Samoa in Discus will not be going to London, claiming American Samoa failed to submit the proper documents on time.

Morgan won the gold for Women’s Under 20 Discus as well as gold for the Shot Put in the Eastern Division of the Track and Field Oceania Regional Championship in Cairns, Australia in late June.

At the time Coach Clayton ‘Boom’ Mahuka did not say that the gold medal winner was going to the Olympics. He only referred to the male athlete at the Oceania regionals, Elama Faatonu, who “will be representing us in Barcelona, Spain, then in London for the 100 meters and we wish him the best,” Mahuka told Samoa News in a report published on July 3.

Faatonu, who competed in Men’s Under 20, 100 Meter Sprint came in 11th out of 16 competitors.

The Ventura Star quotes Morgan saying, "They told us in June that I was cleared and ready to go, and I recently found out that they got my tickets and everything figured out. It was exciting because it seemed more real, like it was really happening. But then I got a call saying they didn't submit the paperwork until July 3 and got denied, so there would be no athletic representation for American Samoa."

The newspaper says Morgan is hoping she gets another shot at the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. "It's a bummer that it didn't work out this time, but you never know how things can work out," she said. "I could be representing them (American Samoa) after this or with the U.S. team if I make it. I'll have to just wait and see,” she told the Ventura Star.

Samoa News has learned that there is what some are calling “a waiver” on some athletic qualifying performances given to small nations such as American Samoa. This waiver, begun in 1986, is to give small nations a chance to participate in the Olympics while they develop their local programs.

It states in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) standards under section 6 (a) unqualified athletes that National Olympic Committees “for which no male or female athlete has reached the required qualification standard will be allowed to enter their best male or female athlete in one athletic event each except combined events. Section 6(c) states the application must be received by the IAAF by June 15 and “acceptance of unqualified entries in Field Events will be at the discretion of the IAAF Technical Delegates, based on the technical standard of the athlete and the numbers of qualified athletes in the respective event.”

Since the competition didn’t even begin until June 27,1 2 days after the deadline, why was Morgan under the impression that she would represent American Samoa at the Olympics?  Shortly after the story broke last week we asked ASNOC for comments and late Friday ASNOC president Ken Tupua and Valusia Talataina (he’s noted as the Athletics Coach for the 2012 American Samoa Summer Olympics team going to London on Wikipedia.com)  agreed to meet with a Samoa News reporter for an interview today. Samoa News will report on that meeting in tomorrow’s issue.

For years sports enthusiasts have complained that ASNOC is not always forthcoming or timely with their information and are secretive about how they make their selections for athletes and personnel going to international events.

Terms such as “rental athletes” have been bandied about by ASNOC naysayers, who point to the organization’s habit of taking athletes who have not lived or trained in the territory, but are of American Samoan ancestry.

A case in point was brought up by a reader who emailed the website privately concerning the athletic trainer going to the Olympics. “If the ‘waivers’ American Samoa has been receiving all these years is to give the nations a chance to participate in the Olympics while they develop their local programs, why does ASNOC continue to take a trainer who is not American Samoan when there is a qualified and certified trainer who IS a native American Samoan?” the reader asked.

A prevailing sentiment in the comments on our website: samoanews.com is that ASNOC is not doing its best for our children, as evidenced by the following comments:

“If they (ASNOC) have love for our children and for sports, take a break now and let a new group develop the talents of our young people in the area of sports.”

“They (Ed Imo, Ken Tupua) have been there way too long and are completely out of touch with today's world.”

“The IOC does provide waivers for small countries. Now if we can get a new Committee and really develop our athletes that would be great. I say our athletes because we should concentrate on our home athletes that's what the focus should be. We need changes now!”

“The mismanagement is embarrassing to the island and completely unfair to the young people that have worked their entire lives to compete at this level.”

Another reader commented, “I bet his (Ken Tupua’s) son … is going. Yet we are down how many competitors? This is just a total lack of responsibility. We need a new ASNOC board now. This group not only spends money carelessly, they ruin athletic dreams, they undermine competitive spirit and they assist in making us the laughing stock of the Olympic community.”

(Ken’s son, Kent Yamada, is listed as the Chef de Mission in the Wikipedia.com)

It seems to be the general perception that ASNOC needs to change and the organization is not serving the best interests of the athletes or the territory.

Whether this is truth or sour grapes on the part of people who feel slighted by the organization or have an axe to grind, Samoa News isn’t immediately able to determine. But with the overwhelming number of people on the website expressing their distrust of ASNOC, it is certainly clear that at the least, ASNOC has a big public relations problem.

Out of the thousands of people who have read this story and the many who have commented since it was posted on line last week, one commenter points out that the mix up with Alex Morgan is not the fault of ASNOC.

“Wake up and do some readily and easily accessible research before you get all riled up and go on your little witch hunts, the comment says. “The sole reason -— and the ONLY reason she isn't going is simple and it has absolutely nothing to do with any decision made by the ASNOC. The IAAF has qualification standards at the A and B levels.”

Samoa News commented back, bringing up the waivers, to which the reader replied under the title WRONG AGAIN, “Again — the IOC has nothing to do with this. The IAAF mandates qualifying standards. Winning a gold medal at the Pacific Games or ‘waivers’ don't apply. The IAAF grants Universality only to non field (running) events. The discus is a field event and the only way to qualify — once again — is to meet the A or B level standard. Alex didn't — end of story — let it go.”

So there you have it.

Samoa News will ask Ken Tupua today for details in the Alex Morgan mix up, and will also see if some of the questions readers have about ASNOC can be clarified. 

BACKGROUND

Samoa News notes a confirmed list of officials of who will be going with American Samoa’s 2012 Summer Olympic athletes to London has not been released yet.

Last month, ASNOC announced that six athletes have been chosen to go the 2012 Olympic Games. They are:

Anthony Liu in Judo;

Alexandra Nichole Morgan in Discus Throwing;

Elama Faatonu in the 100 meter Track & Field;

Ching Maou Wei in the 50 meter freestyle- Swimming;

Megan Fonteno in the 100 meter freestyle- Swimming; and,

Nathaniel Tuamoheloa in 96 kg freestyle- Wrestling.

Morgan has since been denied by the IAAF to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, while Liu was not announced during the ASNOC press conference last month as one of the athletes going. Samoa News attended the press conference.

However, Liu was later identified by Ken Tupua, president of ASNOC, a week following the press conference to another member of the territory’s media, as having accepted ASNOC’s invitation to participate in the 2012 games.

Last week, the governor’s office announced that ASG employees going to the 2012 Olympic games, Tupua and Talataina, as well as Ed Imo, Jr. of ASCC have been granted excused leave with pay to go to the games.

Samoa News was told during the June press conference that an ‘Officials List’ was to be in the near future.

However, Samoa News notes there is a list on the Wikepidia.com for American Samoa officials going to the 2012 Olympic Summer games in London. They are:

President: Ken Tupua

Instant Bingo Coordinator: Dr. Snowy Amsam

Secretary General: Etisone Imo, Jr.

Chef de Mission: Kent Yamada

Ass’t Chef de Mission: Pisupo Pisupo, Jr.

Physiotherapist: Chris Spalding, ATC

Athletics Coach: Valusia Talataina

Judo Team Leader: Michaelle Vargas

Swimming Team Leader: Erika Radewagen

Swimming Coach: Robert Scanlan

Wrestling Coach: Ethan Lake

Paperwork Coordinator: Cat Harper

Of interest, there is no ‘trainer’ listed. Also, Samoa News wrote about physiotherapist Spalding’s presence on the American Samoa 2004 Summer Olympics officials list, prior to the 2004 games. He is not listed on the 2008 officials list.

Spalding was listed as “Chief Medical Officer” on the 2004 Officials List, and questions were asked by Samoa News of his qualifications. Tupua, who was then ASNOC secretary general, told Samoa News in 2004 that Spalding was qualified for the position because he was a physiotherapist, and had also helped ASNOC throughout the years prepare for the Olympic games.

Samoa News Editor Rhonda Annesley contributed to this report



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