Olympic Games: When Your Country Says No

Published on May 10th, 2016

There are ten Olympic sailing events, and while you may be the best in your country in one of the events, that does not guarantee you will make it to the Olympics. That is the lesson sailors in New Zealand are finding out.

The first step is that your county must perform well enough in qualifying regattas prior to the Games. Each event has limited entries, and only the best nations get invited. But once invited, the country can decline, typically when a sailor is not deemed sufficiently competitive to warrant the expense of participation.

In the USA, the laws permit no subjectivity to selection, and if the country qualifies, a sailor will fill that entry. Conversely, Canada has a system with subjectivity, and have focused on events that they seek to emphasize. While the sailors want transparency, a system with flexibility helps the country assure the best sailors are sent and resources are maximized.

The New Zealand selection system provided an outline on what was required of the athletes to make the Olympic team, but was sufficiently vague to provide flexibility for the selectors. And when the New Zealand Olympic Committee confirmed its final sailing selections on May 10th, it came as harsh news to some of their sailors.

As reported in the New Zealand Herald, the country will not have a representative in the boardsailing classes for the first time since it was introduced to the Olympic sailing programme in 1984. Despite qualifying the Men’s and Women’s RS:X class, Yachting NZ offered up no nominations.

JP Tobin had dropped his bid for Olympic selection last year in the Men’s RS:X, citing a lack of support from the national body, while Natalia Kosinska’s form in the Women’s RS:X was not deemed compelling enough to sway selectors.

Sara Winther also fell short in her bid for Olympic selection in the Laser Radial despite some solid results over the last two regattas, meaning New Zealand will be represented in only seven of the 10 fleets.

The Herald has learned Winther and Kosinska intend to appeal their non-nominations to the Sports Tribunal. “We’ve taken a lot of flak recently from certain individuals around supporting or not supporting some of the classes,” said YNZ high performance director Jez Fanstone. “We’ve supported all the classes in this Olympic cycle but when it comes to selections we have a high bar.”

While Winther offered no details on the basis of her appeal, it is understood it will centre around a lack of clarity and transparency in Yachting New Zealand’s selection process. “YNZ’s decision has come as a huge disappointment to me,” she said.

Kosinska may have a tough task convincing the Tribunal of her case for inclusion, having finished 24th at last month’s key selection regatta at Sailing World Cup Hyeres.

At the 2012 Games, New Zealand was ranked fifth of the 12 countries that medaled, gaining a Gold in the Women’s 470 and a Silver in the Men’s 49er.

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