The coaches of Akwasi Frimpong called for continental quota places to be reinstated for Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has turned down a last-ditch request from the coaches of Ghanaian skeleton racer Akwasi Frimpong for continental quota places to be reinstated for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Kit McConnell, sports director for the IOC, has sent a letter, seen by insidethegames, to coaches Brian McDonald and Zach Lund to confirm that no changes will be made to the qualification process for the skeleton and bobsleigh events.

Ghana’s Frimpong and Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo both benefited from the continental qualification system for Pyeongchang 2018 as they became the first African athletes to compete in the skeleton events at the Winter Olympic Games.

But Africa now faces being without any athletes in the sliding disciplines at Beijing 2022 which McDonald and Lund claim will be a "crushing blow" for the sport in the continent.

McDonald and Lund submitted a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach, urging for the continental quota spots to be reintroduced but those calls have been rejected.

Kit McConnell, sports director for the IOC, insisted the organisation
Kit McConnell, sports director for the IOC, insisted the organisation "fully supports diversity and inclusion" but refused to change the qualification system for bobsleigh and skeleton ©Getty Images

"We understand and appreciate your passion for supporting African winter sport athletes and commend your efforts to support them in this regard," McConnell wrote in a letter.

"Firstly, and as for other athletes across the world facing the challenges of the global pandemic over the past two winter sport seasons, it is indeed unfortunate that Mr Frimpong has not qualified for Beijing 2022 and we wish him well in his future endeavours.

"We would also like to reassure you that the IOC fully supports diversity and inclusion in the Olympic Games, as well as clear and fair qualification systems that apply equally to all athletes wishing to qualify for the Olympic Games.

"We would like to highlight that these qualification systems are developed and put in place by International Federations to ensure a fair and credible process for athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games according to their sports’ structures and priorities.

"Collectively, the qualification systems allow diversity at the Olympic Winter Games, however this is not necessarily reflected at each discipline level in every sport."

The qualification process for Beijing 2022 is scheduled to end on January 16 with 50 places available and based on the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) world rankings.

McConnell said the process for Beijing 2022 was approved by the IBSF in December 2019 before being approved by the IOC Executive Board.

"Following this, and understanding that we can not increase the number of qualified athletes, giving an athlete a quota place which is not according to the qualification criteria would consequently imply the exclusion of another athlete qualified in the current qualification system," added McConnell.

"Accordingly, we regret to confirm that an additional out of quota place cannot be allocated to Mr Frimpong.

"That said we encourage the IBSF Athletes’ Commission to put forward this feedback on behalf of the African athletes about the qualification systems for future Games."

Frimpong is ranked 65th in the IBSF men’s skeleton standings and is the highest ranked African athlete in history in the IBSF North American Cup circuit having achieved the placing of eighth overall this season.

The 35-year-old was set to compete at IBSF Intercontinental Cup races in Altenberg and a World Cup event in Winterberg only to pull out of the German competitions after twice testing positive for coronavirus.

Adeagbo is placed 37th in the Women’s Monobob World Series and McDonald and Lund claim the costs of competing in the discipline, which is set to make its Olympic debut at Beijing 2022 "are enough to discourage any small nation athlete from participating".

Frimpong and Adeagbo both completed a training block in October at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre in Beijing in October, but they look set to miss the Games.

McDonald and Lund believe the continental quota system should remain in place until the "inequities and difficulties are no longer obstacles" for African nations in Winter Olympic sports.