The President of the Lebanese Olympic Committee, Jean Hammam, announced at a press conference the names of eight athletes who are set to represent the nation at the Rio 2016 Olympic games.
Runner Chirine Njeim, Asian U-23 fencing champion Mona Shaito, Asian Judo Championship runner-up Nacif Elias, and winner of the Hong Kong table tennis Olympic Qualifiers Mariana Sahakyan are heading to Rio after achieving the qualification standards.
Additionally, four Lebanese athletes have been granted wildcard invitations to the Olympics due to their recent achievements.
National record-holding swimmers Gabriella Doueihy and Anthony Barbar were chosen via the wildcard system to represent Lebanon in Rio’s swimming event. Ray Bassil, one of the best Lebanese shooters of all time, was also granted a wildcard spot for ranking first-place among the world’s trap shooting women. She had successfully leaped from 36th place to first.
Finally, canoeist Richard Merjan’s wildcard spot was assigned after he reached the finals of the 2016 Asian Championship and finished sixth in the C-1 category. He will thus be the first canoeist to represent Lebanon at the Olympic Games.
"Since I was a child I have always been amazed by the Olympics. After discovering the most beautiful sport in the world and 15 years of training, hard work and dedication, I have the opportunity to shine and show my true colours to the world," Merjan said.
Mazen Ramadan, the head of the Lebanese Olympic Delegation, noted that Bassil and Merjan’s wildcard spots remain subject to change based on international ranking and further accomplishments. He added that one more wildcard invitation will be given to one of five athletes under consideration for the athletics category.
Wild cards are entries into specific sports at the Olympics without the need to accomplish the minimum qualifying time or benchmark for the event.
This allows countries to send their best athletes to the games despite not fulfilling the qualification standards. The International Olympic Committee’s wildcard system aims at reinforcing the principle of universal representation at the global event, by encouraging the participation of the maximum number of nations.
The committee assured that all its resources are being exploited to guarantee the athletes’ readiness for Rio, in hope of a much-needed Olympic medal.