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London 2012: Rhythmic gymnasts win appeal to compete in Olympics
Great Britain’s rhythmic gymnasts have won the appeal against their governing body and are now set to compete at this summer’s London Olympic Games.
An independent arbitrator published the verdict earlier today after a hearing took place in London last Wednesday.
In January, the team missed a target score set by British Gymnastics to prove they could compete at the Games but the arbitrator was “not persuaded” that the British Gymnastics’ criteria had been made clear to the team of teenagers.
British Gymnastics independent arbitrator Graeme Mews, confirmed in a statement that it “will now nominate a rhythmic group to the British Olympic Association (BOA) who in turn are expected to accept the host country position offered”.
There had always been a place available to Britain in the rhythmic gymnastics team event at London 2012, but British Gymnastics took the decision to impose a second, standard for its team to hit.
Other sports have done the same in the run-up to the Olympics, in common with the BOA’s policy of ensuring athletes are only sent to the Games if they prove themselves competitive at an international level.
The gymnasts’ fate rested on their performance at January’s Olympic test event inside London’s O2 Arena. However, while reporters at the event had been briefed that GB’s performance during day two’s qualification stage was their defining moment, the team, who proceeded to miss their target of 45.223 by just 0.273 marks, insisted afterwards they could still achieve the standard on day three.
British Gymnastics and the BOA repeatedly confirmed that, contrary to the gymnasts’ belief, day three’s results would not count towards their 2012 qualification. But the team’s confusion had been readily apparent and Mews agreed in his verdict saying, “I am not persuaded that [the team knew] selection would be based only on the qualification stage.”
British Gymnastics argued that this had been the case, as focusing the team on one day would replicate the pressure of competing at the Games, particularly as other teams at the test event were fighting to reach the Olympics based only on their qualification score, not day three’s final, which was largely seen as an afterthought.
But Mews added, “The GB group, however, was in a different position. They were not competing with the other teams for a place. Rather, they were competing against the benchmark.”
British Gymnastics’ chief executive, Jane Allen, has issued a statement in response to today’s verdict in which she stands by the governing body’s initial selection policy. “British Gymnastics respects the rights of its athletes to appeal selection procedure,” the statement read.
“We were confident that we had put in place a transparent, fair and equitable selection policy and associated qualifying score to allow a rhythmic group to self-determine their nomination to the BOA and subsequent participation in the London 2012 Olympic games.
“The selection policy and its associated procedures have been thoroughly examined by an independent arbitrator and we accept his ruling.” The arbitrator concluded that the decision to exclude the gymnasts, while flawed, had been made “in good faith and in the belief that it was correct” by British Gymnastics, acting “in the best interests of its athletes and coaches”.
Lizzie Flint, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Photo credit: Simon Lewis