Monday, March 5, 2012

London 2012: Rhythmic gymnasts win appeal to compete at Olympics

Great Britain's rhythmic gymnasts have won an appeal against their governing body and are set to compete at this summer's London Olympics.

An independent arbitrator published the verdict on Monday 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" British Gymnastics' criteria had been made clear to the team of teenagers.

British Gymnastics said in a statement it "will now nominate a rhythmic group to the British Olympic Association (BOA)". The BOA has in turn confirmed a British rhythmic gymnastics team will go to the Games.

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, artificial 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 do-or-die 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 independent arbitrator Graeme Mews agreed in his verdict.

"I am not persuaded," he wrote, "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 Monday's verdict in which she stands by the governing body's initial selection policy

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