Canada's top-ranked rhythmic gymnast set to miss London 2012 following bitter dispute
Tuesday, 06 March 2012
March 6 - Canada's top-ranked rhythmic gymnast Mariam Chamilova (pictured) is set to miss out on competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games following a bitter dispute with Gymnastics Canada.
The 18-year-old from Ottawa is one of the rising stars in the sport and underlined her potential when she won an individual silver medal at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and an individual bronze at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games.
However, the dispute began when Chamilova turned down a spot on the six-member Canadian team for the group event at the first Olympic qualification event in 2010 to focus on competing as an individual.
Chamilova, who was 16 at the time, was told there would be a second selection event taking place before the six athletes for the team event for the London 2012 Olympics were finalised.
But Gymnastics Canada then opted not to hold a second qualifying event after the team earned an Olympic spot, saying that a change in the group less than five months before the Olympics would have a negative impact on Games preparation.
The decision became more catastrophic after Chamilova failed to qualify for the Olympics in the individual event and Gymnastics Canada ruled they wouldn't add her to the team event for London 2012.
Chamilova, twice named Canada's rhythmic gymnast of the year, appealed the decision to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada but it proved unsuccessful.
Naida Chamilova, the mother of Mariam, admits that the ruling has now left the talented starlet contemplating her own future in the sport.
"She is right now in the position to decide whether she wants to do gymnastics or not," said Naida Chamilova.
"It's very disappointing because she feels like Canada let her down.
"We hear on television almost every day that Canada is sending the best athletes, but we've learned from our experience that's not true.
"This message misinforms the Canadian public.
"Gymnastics Canada is sending athletes that they promised before they would send; this has nothing to do with being the best athletes."
Chamilova, who trained in Moscow for four years but now lives and trains in Toronto, was the top-ranked gymnast in the 2010 team selection and her mother feels this shows that she should feature at London 2012.
"She was praised by Gymnastics Canada that she improved so much and she was the only gymnast with very consistent and strong performances on the Canadian side, and look what happened," she said.
"Now it's a very emotional moment for her.
"It was her dream to go to the Olympics.
"Everybody says and everybody knows that she is the top athlete in this sport in this country and she has been for three years.
"That's why when you put everything on the table, you have no explanation."
Arbitrator Ross Dumoulin ruled that it was only fair to choose the athletes who qualified Canada's team for the Olympics.
"Why wouldn't you have the six athletes who were on the team that finished first among all the other Pan American countries, thus qualifying for the Olympics, be the ones who participate in those Olympics?" Dumoulin wrote in his decision.
"It is not only fair, but wise to send your winning team."
Dumoulin also wrote that it would be "grossly unfair" to replace a gymnast after they had committed themselves to the team programme for more than year.
Team member Kelsey Titmarsh testified that she didn't agree with adding Chamilova to the team because it would upset team chemistry.
"I see already that having a seventh gymnast train on the side is very unbeneficial," Titmarsh said in a written statement.
"It causes unneeded tension, stress and is an overall disturbance to the development of the team.
"It will cause separation within the team and will negatively affect the team's preparation for the 2012 Games."