Support Siphiwe Ka Baleka: Olympic Dreams of 50 Year Old Swimmer Representing Guniea-Bissau Are Under Threat

Updated July 16, 9am EST

My friend and classmate Siphiwe Ka Baleka, an African-American swimmer, is fighting back against the ruling that he cannot participate in the Tokyo Olympics.

As reported in Swim Swam, he has formally appealed this decision at the Court of Arbitrarion for Sport. Since Siphiwe has the qualifying times, let’s hope the bureaucratic obstacles are cleared in time for him to join fellow athletes in Tokyo.

Anything you do to support him in the next few days would be greatly appreciated.

David E. Klutho | Sports Illustrated

Siphiwe hopes to make history as a 50 year old Olympic swimmer. He has extensively trained for this for a while now, as you can imagine, only to find that his dreams may be shattered.

But the story goes even beyond this, as detailed in this Sports Illustrated story.

Siphiwe aims to represent Guinea-Bissau, where he has citizenship, and his ancestral community. The Guinea-Bissau Swim Federation is also appealing the decision.

The importance of this participation in Tokyo, building on the concrete connections he has made with the homeland of his enslaved ancestors, cannot be underestimated.

Finally, as Siphiwe himself also suggested to me, we need to see this in the context of anti-Black racism emerging ahead of Tokyo, including the banning of the swim caps made by the Black-owned British brand Soul Cap, and the suspension of Sha’Carri Richardson for a substance that’s not a performance enhancer or illegal in most states.

Here is the petition to sign and share.

Here is the fundraiser to support Siphiwe.

Let’s get this done.

Associate Professor of English (Postcolonial & Critical Ethnic Studies), The Ohio State University. He/him. Opinions are my own. @redguju