A Taekwondo athlete who used to compete with Team USA says she is not being allowed to fight in the Tokyo Olympics because she is now representing Haiti. 18-year-old Aliyah Shipman, who is Muslim and Haitian-American, trains at the I-Fight Mohamed Ali’s Martial Arts & Fitness Center in Sunrise. The Plantation native competed for the U.S. during her earlier career before becoming eligible to compete for Haiti.
At 16, Shipman, whose great-grandfather is from Haiti, competed for Team USA at the Pan Am Junior Championship, a year before she qualified for the Olympics for Haiti. The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo are now accusing her of violating eligibility rules when she switched national teams, she says.
In an online petition, Shipman says the U.S. Olympic Committee had no worries when she was fighting for Haiti until she qualified for the Olympics. “The US had no objection to me signing up for the Olympic Qualification event,” Shipman writes in the petition. “However, shortly after I qualified for the Olympics, the USOC began to harass Haiti for allowing me to compete for them. They claim that I cannot fight for Haiti because I used to fight for the USA.”
The welterweight fighter’s mother, Zahra Shipman, says her daughter didn’t violate age or competition rules. “There’s a rule in the World Taekwondo rule books that specifies that if an athlete has competed in certain events for one country, they cannot compete in the Olympics for another country for three years,” Zahra tells local news outlet WLRN, adding that the rule applies only to athletes 17 years and older. She says the rule never applied to her daughter because she was 16 when she fought for the U.S.
Shipman, in an interview with “The Clay Cane Show” on Monday, said the U.S. Olympic Committee has threatened Team Haiti with ultimatums. “The U.S. provides aid to Haiti and the Haiti Olympic Committee,” Shipman, who studies finance and accounting at the University of Miami, told Cane. “And they also said if they allow me to go to the Olympics they’ll stop helping them and stop giving them aid.”
Frenel Ostin, the president of the Haitian Taekwondo Federation, says the Olympic governing bodies never raised issues with Shipman’s eligibility until after she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. “If they really wanted to use that [rule] against her, they would have been stopping her or contesting all of the previous competitions that she has been to but they never did,” Ostin says. “But now she’s qualified, they’re trying to use it. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Shipman’s family has hired a lawyer. Meanwhile, the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to begin on Friday. On Monday, WLRN reported that she was waiting for a hearing from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“It’s been very heartbreaking for her. She hasn’t been able to sleep. She feels like she has no purpose,” her mom says. “And it’s just sad to see someone that’s worked so hard, you know, come this close to getting their dream and then someone just trying to crush it.”