"Huge relief" as Britain's rhythmic gymnasts win appeal for London 2012 place
Monday, 05 March 2012
March 5 - Britain's rhythmic gymnasts have won their appeal to take part in London 2012 after a decision by British Gymnastics not to select them has been overturned by an independent arbitrator, Sports Resolutions UK, which criticised the clarity of the qualification policy.
There was confusion over the criteria for the British girls at the Olympic test event at the North Greenwich Arena in January, when observers were told that the team had to reach an internal target set by British Gymnastics after the conclusion of qualifying after the first two of the three days of competition.
After narrowly missing that target of 45.233 marks by just 0.273 at the end of the second day, however, team members insisted they could do enough to earn qualification by the end of the event before learning that was apparently not the case.
Many of the girls broke down in tears at the news.
In announcing a decision on the hearing held last Wednesday, sports arbitrator Graeme Mews said he was "not persuaded" that the position had been fully understood by the team.
Team coach Sarah Moon told BBC Radio 5live: "It's a huge relief.
"It's fantastic news.
"The girls were really upset, they'd been told that was it and it wasn't enough, but they've been training hard and got themselves back together.
"This weekend we went to an international in Sweden and won it.
"Now we've got a lot of preparation competitions to attend."
Mews said the selection policy was "not well drafted", adding that the athletes were "unanimous in asserting that they were unaware that they had only one opportunity – the qualifying stage of the test event – to achieve the benchmark score".
He added: "The policy could easily have included language which clearly and unequivocally stated that the GB group would have only one opportunity – in the qualification stage of the test event – to achieve the benchmark score.
"But it did not."
Mews concluded: "I am not persuaded either that the appellants and their coaches must have known that selection would be based only on the qualification stage because only that stage would replicate the pressures of Olympic qualification competition [the Olympic qualification of other teams participating was dependent only on the first two days of competition].
"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".
A host country nomination was always open to the gymnasts, but in common with other British national governing bodies, British Gymnastics had set their own marker to ensure an agreed level of competitiveness.
In response to the arbitrator's decision, Jane Allen (pictured centre), chief executive of British Gymnastics, made the following statement: "British Gymnastics respects the rights of its athletes to appeal selection procedure.
"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 (British Olympic Association) 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 said he was "left in no doubt at all that British Gymnastics has at all times endeavoured to maintain the integrity of the sport and to act in the best interests of its athletes and coaches," adding: "British Gymnastics' decision not to nominate the GB group was doubtless a hard one to make, but it was a decision made in good faith and in the belief that it was correct".
The rhythmic gymnastics group competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games, will take place at Wembley Arena on August 10 to 12.
March 2012: Week of suspense for Britain's rhythmic gymnasts over London 2012 appeal
February 2012: GB rhythmic gymnasts "hope common sense prevails" in appeal against London 2012 exclusion
January 2012: London 2012 gymnastics test event draws to a conclusion