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Gladwell's Line - Olympic Appeal over in NZ but hotting up in Oz

by Richard Gladwell, NZL on 2 Jun 2016
AC50 construction - Core Builders Composites - May 2019 Richard Gladwell
The 2016 New Zealand Olympic selection process came to an end on Monday night in Auckland with the announcement at the end of a Mediation Hearing by the Chairman of the Sports Disputes Tribunal, Sir Bruce Robertson, that he would not overturn the two non-selection decisions by Yachting New Zealand.

The Hearing took place against a June 1, 2016, deadline set by World Sailing for national sailing bodies to confirm the places which their sailors had earned in the Qualification process which started in September 2014.

The reasons for the Decision were posted today at 11.00am by the Sports Disputes Tribunal.

We have covered the Decision click here, and have included the full 10-page Decision text.

Sir Bruce, while coming down on the side of Yachting NZ was not particularly complimentary about the actions, or rather 'inadequacy of communication by YNZ to both athletes' and referred to this shortcoming and other instances by Yachting NZ several times in the Decision.

These comments are not something that should be dismissed lightly. The inactions took place over an extended period and were not just a single incident.

'I have concerns about the inadequacy of communication by YNZ to both athletes. While the selection policy is drafted to provide huge discretion to YNZ, this does not obviate its obligations to abide by the rules of natural justice and to ensure basic fairness in its implementation.'

'In particular, athletes in contention for nomination should be aware of what information they are being judged by and be given a reasonable opportunity to provide feedback on this. I am not sure the athletes were given this opportunity or that the individual circumstances of the athletes in question and how they would perform at the Rio Olympics venue were adequately assessed in arriving at their decisions.'

He went on to say that 'individuals must never be just widgets in a machine like process' - an apparent reference to the statistical model used by Yachting New Zealand, and known as the 'Funnel Update 2016' on which Sir Bruce commented that the selectors appeared to be 'heavily reliant.'

One gains the impression that Sir Bruce was tempted to overturn the YNZ selections, particularly that of Sara Winther, who finished 11th overall in both the 2014 and 2016 World Championships. Sir Bruce commented that she was 'exceedingly close' to making the top ten overall cut-off at the 2016 World Championships.

'As troubled as I am by the lack of consultation, support, and communication with the athletes by YNZ, on the basis of the information presented to me, I am not satisfied that this inadequacy meets the high threshold to justify intervention and overturning the YNZ nomination decisions on either appeal.'

These comments are coming in the usual understated style by a former Judge of the Court of Appeal.

At about the same time as the Decision was being posted by the Sports Dispute Tribunal, the International Olympic Committee was announcing a raft of five new Sports which will be added to the 2020 Olympic program.

They are estimated to add another 480 athletes to the Olympic Games, which are capped at 10,500 athletes.

That capacity has to come from somewhere, and with Yachting New Zealand prepared to hand back three places, and Sailing Australia (the re-badged Yachting Australia) handing back two places (three sailors), and Oceania failing to take up nine places, or another 13 sailors/athletes. There is obviously plenty of unwanted capacity in sailing with 19 athlete places not being taken up by the countries of the South West Pacific.

While Yachting New Zealand has got itself into some hot water with its Olympic selections and process, over the Tasman, Sailing Australia is being roasted in the media over its decision not to send a crew in the women's skiff event, the 49erFX.

The Australians had three crews from which to make a choice and in the end decided to send no-one. For that effort AS (can't be too long before an extra 'S' gets added to that acronym) have copped major newspaper stories and has a Facebook page started against its decision which gained over 3,000 likes in just a couple of days.

Sailing media are weighing into AS for similar reasons as has happened in New Zealand. Except in Australia there is more of them, and no surprise, being Australians, they are more vocal.

A comment on the Facebook page, attributed to 2012 Olympic Gold medallist, Tom Slingsby (AUS) reads:

'It's a tricky one. They knew the rules when they signed up. They had to achieve a qualifying performance in a certain time, or they would not be sent to the Olympics. However, These are all young girls and definitely have a great chance at competing in future Olympics. They have just missed qualification this time but competing in 2016 could massively improve their chances in 2020, trust me, I know, I would not have won in London had I not competed in Beijing. I think they 'should' be sent for this reason. The Olympics is like no other regatta and weird results happen, especially in a tricky venue like Rio. The silver medalist in Lasers in London was 23rd (I think) in the world titles just before the Olympics. Sometimes people can put it together when it counts, but you have to be on the start line for that to happen.'

The final comment must go to 2012 Olympic representative, Sara Winther, one of the sailors spurned by Yachting New Zealand.

'I paid my own way to go win a spot at the Olympics in Santander (first round) and now my country can swoop in and take it all away. How fair is that?'

On Monday, we had the privilege of a tour of the Core Builders Composites facility in Warkworth and got the first photos of the AC50's and their wingsails being built.

We have a two-part story in preparation. Stay tuned to to read this two part series along with a full gallery of images.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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