Olympic se­lec­tion a thorny is­sue

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

The 11th- hour de­ci­sion to re­place Natalie Rooney with Ryan Tay­lor in the New Zealand shoot­ing squad for the Lon­don Olympics con­tin­ues a run of se­lec­tion con­tro­ver­sies that stretches back nearly a cen­tury.

Tar­get shooter Tay­lor was omit­ted from the New Zealand team in favour of women’s trap spe­cial­ist Rooney, but the de­ci­sion was re­versed last week af­ter Tay­lor’s ap­peal to the Sports Tri­bunal of New Zealand.

It seems odd that they can’t both be sent to Lon­don, but New Zealand has a quota for its Olympic shoot­ing con­tin­gent, so it had to be one or the other.

The Tay­lor-Rooney drama is the lat­est of many New Zealand Olympic se­lec­tion de­bates. Among the most cel­e­brated:

1928: Cham­pion dis­tance run­ner Billy Savi­dan was not sent to Am­s­ter­dam de­spite be­ing the na­tional one-mile, three-mile and cross-coun­try cham­pion.

Four years later, in Los Angeles, Savi­dan fin­ished fourth in the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m.

He once told me his big re­gret was not go­ing in 1928, when he was at his peak.

1956, 60 and 64: Roy Wil­liams, New Zealand’s first great de­cath­lete, was three times over­looked for Olympic se­lec­tion. He was among the world’s top 10 in 1956 and 60, and his omis­sion was in­ex­pli­ca­ble.

In 1964, just to be sure, he headed to the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, for top-class com­pe­ti­tion. His per­for­mances kept im­prov­ing, but the se­lec­tors ruled that be­cause he’d done them over­seas, they wouldn’t be con­sid­ered.

Wil­liams won the de­cathlon gold medal at the 1966 Em­pire Games, but never did get a crack at the Olympics.

1960: Marise Cham­ber­lain set world bests in the 400m and mile, but was over­looked for the 800m event in Rome. Iron­i­cally, a rel­a­tively un­known male 800m run­ner, Peter Snell, was sent that year and did rather well.

Cham­ber­lain did get to the 1984 Olympics, where she won a bronze medal.

1968: Long jumper Bob Thomas set a na­tional record of 8.05m in Jan­uary 1968, a mark that still stands 44 years later. His leap would still have won an Olympic medal in 1976.

Yet in 1968 the se­lec­tors sent an­other long jumper, Dave Nor­ris, and left Thomas at home.

1976: Euan Robert­son was not cho­sen for the steeple­chase, so he toured Europe with run­ning greats John Walker, Dick Quax and Rod Dixon.

Robert­son kept break­ing his New Zealand record and kept be­ing over­looked. Fi­nally, a month be­fore the games, he re­duced his time to a sen­sa­tional 8min 22.8s and sim­ply had to be cho­sen.

Though he was nearly run ragged try­ing to earn se­lec­tion, he still fin­ished sixth in Montreal. ‘‘Not bad for a re­ject,’’ said his coach, Arch Jel­ley.

Olympic se­lec­tor and team man­ager Bill Hol­ley later told me the se­lec­tors’ hard­line at­ti­tude was the rea­son Robert­son had done so well in Montreal!

1980: A 99- strong team was cho­sen for the 1980 Moscow games. Even­tu­ally only four com­peted – three ca­noeists and a mod­ern pen­tath­lete – af­ter Amer­i­can pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter called for a boy­cott and some Western coun­tries sup­ported him.

Carter, who had an elec­tion loom­ing, de­cided the Soviet in­va­sion of Afghanistan was rea­son enough for a boy­cott.

The New Zealand Gov­ern­ment put tremen­dous pres­sure on in­di­vid­ual sports to with­draw and they crum­bled. Nearly 50 of the orig­i­nal team never did be­come Olympians.

2004: Hamish Pep­per (laser), An­drew Brown and Jamie Hunt (47) were cho­sen in the yachting squad, but their se­lec­tion was fraught with prob­lems.

An­drew Mur­doch felt he should have got Pep­per’s spot and Si­mon Cooke and Alis­tair Gair felt they should be the 470 se­lec­tions. They all ap­pealed to the Sports Tri­bunal, which agreed.

The mat­ter was then re­ferred to the In­ter­na­tional Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport, which re­versed that rul­ing, and the orig­i­nal se­lec­tions re­mained.

2008: Liza Hunter-Gal­van, who had run 51st in the 2004 Olympic marathon, missed se­lec­tion in 2008. She ap­pealed to the Sports Tri­bunal and had the de­ci­sion over­turned. In Bei­jing she ran 35th.

The fol­low­ing year she re­turned a pos­i­tive test for banned per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs and was sus­pended for two years.

Photo: FAIR­FAX

Re­in­stated: Ryan Tay­lor is Lon­don-bound af­ter win­ning his ap­peal against his non-se­lec­tion in New Zealand’s men’s shoot­ing team. It is the lat­est in a long his­tory of Kiwi Olympic se­lec­tion de­bates.

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