Canadian weightlifter Jeenat Billen misses out on Youth Olympics because of an error

Jeenat Billen in 2016.
Photo submitted

FAMOUS weightlifting head coach Makhan Sandhu is deeply upset as Jeenat Billen of his Lions Weightlifting Club of Surrey will not be going to the Youth Olympics reportedly because of an error by the office secretary of Canadian Weightlifting Federation.

Billen has won medals at national and international tournaments over the years and has consistently been featured in The VOICE.

Sandhu said: “I can’t find the words to console Jeenat Billen.”

He added: “Although, based on the individual performance of Canadian weightlifter Jeenat Billen, the International Weightlifting Federation offered a spot to Canada in weightlifting for the Youth Olympic Games, Jeenat Billen missed her well deserved opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games. I don’t have the words to console Jeenat who lost an opportunity of a lifetime to be an Olympian.”

The Youth Olympic Games are taking place from October 6 to 18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Makhan Sandhu

Here is how Sandhu explained the situation to the VOICE:

In weightlifting, the International Weightlifting Federation allots quotas to deserving national federations based on the performance of their teams as a whole in world and / or continental weightlifting championships. But sometimes, some countries can’t send their full team or they don’t have qualified athletes to make the full team. As a result, the teams of those countries can’t earn their spot based on established criteria. But one or two of their athletes are really outstanding.

In such a situation, considering the performance of the individual athlete, the International Weightlifting Federation issues a “wild card” to a national federation (although a wild card is not guaranteed but usually the IWF tries to accommodate an athlete) so that the deserving athlete can get an opportunity.

The same thing happened in the case of Canada – the Canadian team did not earn the spot, but Jeenat Billen’s performance was outstanding and as a result, the International Weightlifting Federation offered a spot to Canada in weightlifting for Jeenat – thanks to Paul Barrot, the President of Canadian Weightlifting Federation who pursued her case to the IWF on the request of Makhan Sandhu and succeeded getting an offer for a spot.

Unfortunately, in January 2017, Canadian Olympic Committee asked all national federations if they supported the youth program and in response to that, the office secretary of the Canadian Weightlifting Federation, without consulting the federation, replied in the negative. As a result, when recently the IWF offered a spot for weightlifting, the NOC [National Olympic Committee] declined it because by accepting that offer they would have to drop an athlete from another sport.

However this error happened, weightlifter Jeenat Billen paid the price. Jeenat Billen did everything in her powerl – she won the silver medal in both the 2017 and the 2018 PanAm Youth Weightlifting Championship. She skipped her tour for Junior World Championship because she wanted to focus on the Youth Olympics and she was confident that based on her performance at the Youth PanAm championship, she would get the spot on the Canadian team for the Youth Olympic Games.

I always believe and teach the athletes that their engagement in a competitive sports definitely instills such valuable qualities which you otherwise learn very late in life; qualities such as team spirit, courage, tolerance, patience, respecting the rules and regulations of the game, learning how to bear the defeat and digest the success, and having self-esteem and confidence. We always tell them that competitive sports develop the ability to transform errors, misses and mistakes into opportunities for learning. In spite of all these positive things which competitive sports instill, when I see Jeenat’s disappointment on a regular basis, it is hard to find words to console her.
I hope she will overcome this soon and will continue to focus on her training – thanks to my fellow coaches Rajinder Mahey and Raghbir Sahota in their efforts to help her overcome this.