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Left out of the Olympics – The Selection Process

In recent light, there have been numerous athletes who naturally haven’t been selected, unfortunately not everyone can compete at the Olympics, and some will be left disappointed especially as it is in London, and it will more than likely be the only time the Olympics comes to the UK in our lifetime. Certain circumstances however have arisen through doubting the selection process after a number of athletes have both questioned and tried to appeal their non selection – only the rhythmic gymnastics team has been successful to appeal against their own governing body and on Friday Gareth Warburton successfully won his appeal to run in the 800m as there was a single space left for a third B standard qualifying athlete in this event. This does not hold much hope for those unsuccessful athletes who may have not been selected in controversial style. Firstly the BOA selection process is a little different to other nations. Each sport has different standards of achievement an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ standard, and in each event up to 3 athletes can be selected if they achieve a good standard. A performer who achieves an ‘A’ standard qualification is pretty much guaranteed their spot at the Olympics although not in every case. Secondly if an ‘A’ standard is achieved they cannot be accompanied by a ‘B’ standard in that specific discipline.  Lastly most other nations base their selection criteria solely on the performance of athletes at their Olympic Trials events. Usually the top two/three performers will be chosen for the games, this is not the process the BOA has used. The selection criteria analyses performance and includes things like current performance, performance from early 2011 – mid 2012, current world rankings, specific nature of the Olympic course or event, the profiles of preselected athletes, young and exceptional athletes who would benefit from Olympic experience and are considered prospects for 2016 & 2020 and commitment & cooperation to training sessions. All these in turn will decide if an athlete will be selected on merit. So far, there have been a large number of people to question the selection process such as retired athlete Steve Cram and Dame Kelly Holmes as a number of athletes who may have been expected to compete have been left out of the Olympic team. Firstly Dan Keatings’, who recovered from an ankle ligament injury and won five medals including two gold’s at the British championships found this was not enough to prevent British high bar champion Sam Oldham from taking his place in the Olympic squad.  This would have been a huge choice to have been made and either athlete left out would have been disappointed. The thing with gymnastics is that the whole team has to fit together like a jigsaw, even though Keatings met most of the selection criteria, it may have been deemed that the performance of Sam Oldham may add a different dimension and roundness to the team as a whole as well as being a medal prospect for future games, giving him that added experience. The next decision we focus on would be the selection for the Triathlon team. The top two male places would have been one of the easiest choices to make in the whole Olympic team, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee have been at the top of the sport for a number of years now and have a real prospect for medals, dare I say gold and silver? The third choice in the men’s team going on overall standings should have gone to Will Clarke, who after the Brownlee’s is the third best Olympic ranked British male Triathlete.Instead the BOA have opted to add a domestique into the team – the role of which will help the Brownlee’s during the bike stage, he will set a pace and prevent any breakaways from the pack, this person may also supply food and drink to the athletes whilst taking part. Stuart Hayes has been picked because of his speed on the bike, he is not expected to medal but will purely help out the Brownlee’s. Some people consider this wrong, as the Brownlee’s are currently world champion and 2nd in the world for triathlon, therefore they should not need a domestique. Will Clarke, having missed out even though he won a silver medal at the World Series in Hamburg last year, must be gutted. A similar process has occurred in the women’s team; Helen Jenkins and Vicky Holland were easy selections. The final place was between Liz Blatchford  – the third best British woman in 2012, Jodie Stimpson who has previously competed as a domestique helping the Brownlee’s and Jenkins win the World Team Title last year and Lucy Hall an up and coming triathlete who has only recently stepped up to the elite level. Some say questionably, the BOA opted for Hall; she’s the next generation of a good set of British Triathletes based at Loughborough and has a bright future ahead of her. Blatchford immediately challenged the decision of the BOA although she is unlikely to overturn this. Having spoken to a number of triathletes at numerous events I have worked at over the past month, it seems as though the majority agree with the decision. Hall is young but hungry and I’m sure, like I have been reliably informed, she will put up a great supporting performance in the Triathlon at this year’s Olympics. Molly Renshaw is the next athlete we look at. The teenager swimmer who competes in 200m breastroke completed the ‘A’ standard qualifying time in March of this year whilst finishing second behind Stacey Todd. A perfect time to be peaking for the Olympics but since this, she has been told the ‘A’ standard time was not enough. Had she repeated her time at the Trials event she would have been selected, although she fell short by 0.83 seconds and even though she won the race, she may be one of the only ‘A’ standard athletes not selected for the games.  She has since seen her challenge to overturn the decision rejected, and will be competing at the European Junior Championships and the Us Open instead of the Olympics – although she will be disappointed she has made a huge improvement this year and is definitely a swimmer to keep an eye on. One of the most disappointed athletes is Aaron Cook. The Taekwondo star has been left out of the GB team despite being number one in the world in the 80kg category in favour of Lutalo Muhammad.  GB Taekwondo has said though that the selection was made as Muhammad’s fighting style was more tactical as he has a greater ability to score points yet concede fewer head kicks than Aaron Cook. As if being left out in your sport when you’re the world number one isn’t enough he has also had his appeal rejected and his plea to take the case to The Court of Arbitration for Sport turned down as it was not the “correct forum” for the case to be heard – Where else would you refer a sporting judgment these days then? According to their sources his team presented evidence showing that GB Taekwondo was looking to snub him as early as August 2011 after he decided to quit the GB academy training programme 2 months earlier, stating he did not like their training methods – and has since improved after leaving the programme. Currently the World Taekwondo federation is investigating the GB selection process although it will not be completed before the Olympics, meaning even if they find a flaw, Cook will still be unable to compete. The other option for Cook would be to take the appeal to the high court, although this would have huge financial implications, so it will be very unlikely should this occur. According to numerous licence holders of the British Taekwondo Control Board they do not agree with the GB Taekwondo selection process and are now searching for an alternate federation. There is something hugely dubious about this, and I feel that only after the games the true light of why Aaron was not selected will come to light, even then should he receive justice. It will be difficult to work with the GB coaches again. Maybe the most controversial decision is selecting or gambling with Lynsey Sharp for the women’s 800m, although Sharp did win the trials race, she has not recorded an ‘A’ standard time for the 800m, with four other women having done so in the selection period. This meaning that the spaces for two other athletes to compete in the 800m cannot be filled as you cannot take a ‘B’ and an ‘A’ standard athlete in the same event to the games according to IAAF rules. The women missing out on the games are the world 2009 bronze medallist Jenny Meadows, Marilyn Okoro, Emma Jackson and Jemma Simpson who  finished second at the trials all miss out on a place. Meadows was unable to compete at Helsinki after aggravating an Achilles injury on the flight, and in her absence Sharp produced a silver medal performance. According to Charles Van Commerse all the other athletes had only themselves to blame for not being selected – pretty harsh considering they had all previously achieved the ‘A’ standard qualifying time for Olympic selection. Meadows who is part of the adverts promoting lottery funding to British athletes initially said should would appeal the selection process, although on further thought she has decided not to, as if she is successful it would mean Sharp loses her place as you cannot take an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ standard athletes to the games. All of the other women who achieved the ‘A’ standard apart from Meadows appealed towards the end of last week and were all unsuccessful. A brave move from the BOA, although Sharp is coming into form just at the right time for the games, Meadows was very unlucky with injuries and even though all the other women recorded the ‘A’ standard qualification time, their recent form has not really been enough. At the end of the day if you don’t win trials or start coming into form for the Olympics then unfortunately are you deserving of a place on the GB team? Lastly David Beckham has not been selected for one of the 3 over 23 year old players in the British football squad. Most people have been shocked by this decision, a little harsh if you ask me. This is the guy who was part of Seb Coe’s team to help win the London games, and has been an Olympic ambassador since 2005. Even as early as last month he flew from LA to Cornwall to light the Olympic torch, marking its arrival from Greece. From a political point of view he should have been included, but for football reasons there are points for and against Beckham. He would have been a great addition to the squad although would the profile of one player drawn the attention away from the team as a whole? Obviously the aim would be to achieve a medal but is this realistic outcome? Other countries such as Germany, Brazil, and Argentina have very strong youth squads and this is the first time Britain has competed at football in the Olympics since 1974, meaning we are looking to do well. This is because the FA stopped recognising the difference between professionals and amateurs and with everyone being registered as a ‘player’ regardless of their wage. Since then there was thought to enter a team into the 2008 Olympics, but this never materialised. The final part of the argument looks completely at the opposing scale; numerous athletes have not been included yet are performing at a remarkably high standard. There have also been those selected after having their drugs bans overturned by The Court of Arbitration for Sport. These being Dwain Chambers who will compete in the 100m and the 4x100m, David Millar who will aid Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome in the cycling road race and  Carl Mysercough banned in 1999. He was only included last Friday to compete in the shot put after achieving the ‘B’ standard distance. He failed at his attempt to qualify at the European Championships last Saturday. Knowing that the cut off point to submit your performance to be selected was last Monday 2nd July, he found a small event in Estonia the following day. He arrived by boat, threw the ‘B’ standard required hours before the cut off point, and was on the plane back home on Monday. He was the last athlete to be selected for London 2012. Should these athletes compete in the games after having served their drugs ban or will it always tarnish their careers afterwards?

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