MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s largest airline has offered to fly Olympic divers Alejandra Orozco and Gabriela Agundez to this year’s world championships for free after government funding cuts forced them to try to find ways to pay their own passage.
Elite Mexican aquatic athletes have been driven to selling towels and bathing suits among other fund-raising initiatives since government funding was cut in a row over the governance of the Mexican Swimming Federation (FMN).
Orozco and Agundez said on national radio on Wednesday that they had considered auctioning off their Olympic medals to continue competing around the world in the run up to next year’s Paris Games.
Moments later, however, they received an on-air call from an Aeromexico executive, who said the airline would ferry the entire diving team to the Aquatics World Championships in Japan in July.
“We have followed the success of Alejandra and Gabriela closely, and if they have to go to Japan, Aeromexico will take them, we will be delighted to do it,” director of communications Christian Pastrana said.
Orozco, who won a synchronised 10m platform silver medal at London 2012 and teamed up with Agundez to win a bronze at the last Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, said the pair had only reluctantly considered selling their medals.
“We don’t want to go to the extreme of auctioning our medals, we are offering conferences and talks to children so that they don’t get discouraged by these situations in sport,” Orozco, 26, told Mexican network Radio Formula.
Sports ministry president Ana Guevara took the decision in January to cut funding from FMN after World Aquatics withdrew its recognition of president Kiril Todorov and installed a “stabilisation committee” to run the body.
Todorov is now facing a trial in Mexico on charges of embezzlement. He has repeatedly stated that he is innocent.
The Aeromexico offer is not the first case of private initiative coming to the aid of Mexico’s aquatic athletes.
Billionaire businessman Carlos Slim, through his philanthropic foundation, funded the Artistic Swimming team’s trip to the World Championships in Egypt, where they won three golds and a bronze earlier this week.
(Reporting by Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City; Editing by Peter Rutherford)