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No tomorrow for rhythmic gymnasts

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Ollie Williams | 08:17 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tomorrow died for Britain's rhythmic gymnasts on Tuesday.

A group of seven teenage girls who, with their parents' help, funded their own bid for Olympic glory, fell a minuscule fraction short of the standard required to reach London 2012 - missing their target by the sum of 0.273 marks.

If that sounds small, it is. The margin between the greatest success they could have imagined, reaching their home Olympic Games, and the horror of failure after all that time and money, could scarcely have been smaller.

Everybody cried. The girls, some of them lying prostrate on the floor in tears, hid behind a gigantic black curtain away from the crowd and media.

When, eventually, the team and officials emerged to face the music, even British Gymnastics' performance director was close to tears. He gave interviews with moist, reddened eyes, in which he confirmed that the deal struck with the British Olympic Association was such that there was no leeway. This was it. The team had a target to hit, they had missed it, no Olympics. End of story.

GB rhythmic gymnasts

The British team were distraught to learn they had failed to reach their target (Photo: PA)

If every word from his mouth appeared to hurt him, imagine how it felt to be one of the gymnasts.

The crowd, which booed in horror as Britain's score appeared on London's O2 Arena scoreboards, did its best to encourage them. But by that point, slicks of mascara had already stained their heavily made-up faces.

"We're all ready to fight tomorrow," Rachel Smith, the team captain and the one most prepared to face the cameras at her lowest ebb, told us defiantly.

"This isn't the end to us, this isn't the last you're going to see of this group. We're not messing around. Nobody's having a joke here. We're being serious. We want to go."

And that was the heartbreaking moment when it became apparent that the team did not believe their fight was over. They believed in tomorrow, but tomorrow did not exist.

"I don't think it's the end," said Smith's team-mate, Lynne Hutchison. "We can show a credible performance, show we're good enough and hopefully we might get something."

Here were the team, insisting they would come out for the Olympic test event's finale on Wednesday and show something more - do something, anything - to convince the powers-that-be to send them to the Games.

And yet the message from British Gymnastics and the British Olympic Association, who between them set the target in the first place, was incontrovertible. This was the end, they confirmed to us. Wednesday mattered not one jot. The rules laid down said Tuesday's qualifying score had to beat 45.223. It did not, and there could be no appeal, no reprieve, no mulligan.

Tim Jones, the performance director, fought to mask his sorrow as he delivered the fateful words.

"We went through a process with the British Olympic Association of agreeing a standard we felt would show credible performance," he said.

"It would have been a score that gave us a platform to launch rhythmic into the next four years, but there wasn't any leeway. They will not be nominated."

But still the gymnasts would not, could not accept this. It did not sink in. Jade Faulkner, the reserve for Tuesday's performance who had watched her Olympic dream evaporate from the sideline, insisted afterwards it was not over.

Can you blame them? Can you blame a group of teenage girls who have sacrificed years of their lives, and thousands of pounds of their families' cash, in pursuit of a dream that has been taken away for the sake of a fraction of one mark? If it were you, would you be any different?

But then, if you were the British Olympic Association, could you possibly act any differently?

The target score had been established for some months now. Having decided to set the bar at 82% of the top score at last autumn's World Championships, in Montpellier, British Gymnastics and the BOA gave the rhythmic squad many weeks to wrestle with that benchmark and develop a way to reach it.

The BOA even brought in legendary ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean to advise the squad on the best way to show off their artistry and impress the judges. Anything which squeezed an extra tenth of a mark out of the panel would be worth it. The team listened, too - their routines inside the O2 Arena were packed with finishing touches gleaned from a couple of hours in the exuberant Dean's company.

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Torvill and Dean coach GB rhythmic gymnasts in December

That it all came to nothing is sad for the gymnasts and their families, whose sacrifice has been great and whose reward is now nothing but the memory of having been on a journey. It is hard to see how they can possibly continue as a group.

The money is not there (rhythmic gymnastics receives no UK Sport funding) and the four years to Rio 2016 - where qualification is even less likely, since Britain will no longer have access to host-nation places - must seem a lifetime to the teenagers whose eyes are still drying.

I asked their coach, Sarah Moon, if her team could be expected to find the cash to carry on for another Olympic cycle. "No. No, of course not," she said, swallowing tears. "We're not sure what happens next. We'll think about that."

The target score need not have existed. Nothing, really, is stopping the BOA sending the rhythmic gymnasts to the Games with its blessing. Britain has a guaranteed place in the group event, courtesy of hosting the Olympics.

But the BOA and British Gymnastics decided to impose this benchmark regardless, as a way of showing that British athletes would only be sent to their home Olympic Games if they proved they had the talent to go. For all the hurt, grief, bewilderment and disbelief it has caused this group of teenagers, that is a laudable stance.

They know, now, that to turn around and find a loophole with which to include the youngsters at the Olympics would open them to ridicule. It cannot be done, much as performance director Jones - who is already taking a battering from the gymnasts' families and friends on Facebook - may wish it could.

Instead, the gymnasts are victims of the BOA's promise that every British athlete stepping into an Olympic arena this summer will be delivering both a competitive performance and a lasting legacy for their sport.

Sadly for the rhythmic gymnasts, they are left with neither. This remains a sport with no money, few prospects and plenty to cry about. That Britain's Olympic ideals have been upheld will be of scant consolation now.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Dura lex, sed lex.

    Of course we all feel sorry for the girls, but let's not sentimentalism overshadow the facts. A standard was agreed, the standard was not met.

    The standard is there to ensure we don't send amateurs to the Olympics. It is almost impossible that these girls would have come anywhere near the podium at the Olympics, there are no underdogs in rhythmic, particularly in the team event (where only well established nations ever stand a chance).

    Also, it is pointless to make an exception for them and not in other sports. It has to work for all competitors. In fact, all Olympic hopefuls know they have to meet the standard, they all make the choice to do it (and put in the time and money, it's your choice, you know) so I won't be swayed by the line "teen-age girls who sacrificed their lives". No one forced them to.

    There is no guaranteed success in sport.
    Maybe this is the most important lessons sports teaches you, and these teenage girls should be proud of what they have achieved.

    As for the future of the sport, well Britain can not be expected to be top class in all disciplines. How popular is rhythmic gymnastic? How many girls take part? How many clubs? Is it really a priority to be good at a sport where your career is over when you turn 20?

    I was an Olympic (winter) hopeful in the '90s. I didn't make the mark. I was devastated. Tough. It happens to plenty of people, nature of competition, I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 2.

    I feel for them. However I also feel for the team that is better than GB that wouldnt get to go because theres a place reserved for the hosts. Especially when rhythmic has so few slots to give.

  • Comment number 3.

    If it was me that had lost out on a place at a home Olympics, a once in a lifetime opportunity then I'd be gutted too. The fact is that a standard was agreed and they failed to meet it and therefore do not deserve to go. It's the same across every Olympic sport and it has to be to ensure that the standard required to represent GB is consistently high.

    There have been several comment that state the girls performance deserved a higher score, this for me is a different point entirely and is one of the fundamental issues in artistic sports. If someone crosses the line first in the 100m, or throws the javelin the furthest then they are the winner. It's black and white and there for all to see. Artistic sports are open to interpretations of rules and performances and as such will always be susceptible to comments such as "they should have been scored more highly".

    For every gold at London 2012 there will be 1000's of people around the world left heart broken, that's what competitive sport does. Anyone involved in sport knows that and maybe in time the team and there families will stop blaming the performance director and accept that, on this day, they fell just short of the mark.

  • Comment number 4.

    "It's the same across every Olympic sport"

    How callous and hard-hearted these comments seem. This was an entirely arbitrary level that was set by the BOA, not by the IOC - it wasn't an Olympic-set qualification target. It also seems ridiculous to arbitrarily prevent one set of competitors from going when they missed out on a random line in the sand by a hairs-breadth, while we artificially create handball squads out of people picked at random off the streets who don't qualify for major tournaments and finish 6 out of 6 in the ones they do qualify for - and the BOA (and therefore us) pays for them unlike these gymnasts.

  • Comment number 5.

    Well, that's the legacy gone. It appears the BOA were thinking of only themselves when they set these standards to ensure people were "good enough" to get the host places. Does anyone genuinely thinking these gymnasts would give up a host nation spot for not being "good enough"? I'd put money on them going, doing their best and getting a - once in a lifetime - chance to appear on the Olympic stage.

    Not least, if we don't take every opportunity given to us, what chance for the future. What chance that next time round, athletes who've not been on the Olympic stage before will perform to the best of their ability? We should have used this opportunity to (to quote a BBC presenter on another sport) "blood in athletes" for 2016.

    Instead, we've lost a chance to further an under exposed sport. What legacy does that leave?

  • Comment number 6.

    Firstly to go to the Olympics you have to be an ameteur not a payed profesional, and if everybody thought that it is not worth going unless you get a medal then nobody but the Russians would go. These girls had NO help from British Gymnastics, they were entirley self funded, they took time out of training to do displays and sell autograph cards to help fund their way.....there is no sentimentality here these girls gave up school and for some of them their homes to train full time for their dream of representing GBR at the olympics and through this raising the awareness of Rhythmic Gymnastics in GB.... There was no need for a bench mark as they already had a wild card entry, but even i can see the reason for this.....you dont want your gymnasts to look foolish at the olympics....but this bench mark would have put this young team among the top 12 in the world after training full time together for only 5 months where the other teams have been together for atleast 2 years and they were only .283 away from this mark.

    Could,nt BG and BOA atleast have said.... you are so close ....we will think about it...look at what they could have done in another 5 months, and for sure with funding and sponsors as there would have been many if it was known that they were going to the Olympics for sure they would have had less financial stress....instead it seems that Mr Jones wasted no time in telling reporters that there was no chance of them going. Well there are 7 broken hearted teenagers who their own federation has not helped and wanted no glory, no money only to represent GBR at the olympics and to help their sport. This group will now finish as their parents can not afford to keep them going and once again Great Britain will be without a Rhythmic Group.....an olympic sport that GB have never been able to send a team to represent them and after their treatment i doubt if there will ever be another one.

  • Comment number 7.

    It's horrible, really horrible, and much sympathies.
    That it was by such a small margin was crueller still.

    But I can't disagree with the BOA's stance. The mark was set, the mark was clear, efforts were made, just on the most crucial day it didn't quite happen. Like someone finishing 4th in a medal race, it's crushing but has to be accepted.

  • Comment number 8.

    If I were those girls I'd rock up to the embassy of Tajikistan or American Samoa etc. And say give us a passport and I'll perform for you - at least they'd get to go. Nothing less than a lot of others have done - some far, far bigger names than them with all due respect.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sorry for the girls. The fact is a minimum standard was agreed and set. The girls knew this, their parents knew this, as well as the coach and other handlers. Sadly they did not reach their target. They should be proud of their effort and be gracious in defeat. This is what competitive sport is all about, there will be winners and losers. I sincerely do hope they picjk up themselves and support the sport they so love when the olympics start, as this is the true olympic virtu

  • Comment number 10.

    Saved us from another "eddie the eagle" moment.

  • Comment number 11.

    "Having decided to set the bar at 82% of the top score at last autumn's World Championships...."

    I don't think its fair to compare scores from different competitions, with (potentially) different judges.

    My wife competes in an event that is subjectively judged (dressage) and the judges interpretations differ vastly. Some weeks she'll perform below average but receive 70% from a lenient judge and other weeks she'll perform better and receive just 60% from a harsher, more demanding judge. Slight exagerations maybe but hopefully you'll see where i'm going with this. That in itself isn't a major problem as long as the lenient/harsh standards apply to all competitors in that particular competition.

    Where you would have a problem is if you try and compare scores from seperate competitions. In theory, the girl's performance last night could have been every bit as good as last year's world champions but judged by an extremely harsh panel of judges?

  • Comment number 12.

    Could it be the fact the team is self funded that is part of the problem here? After all the BOA couldn't have claimed any glory however well the team performed. I can't help but wonder that had the team been funded by the BOA a lower score might have been set as the benchmark. As it is the BOA decision to not enter the team looks petty and mean. What happened to the Olympic ideal of 'taking part'? The cost to the BOA of entering is practically nothing and the opportunity to introduce this event to a new generation in the UK will now be missed.

  • Comment number 13.

    If there has to be a standard to be set then it should be set by the Olympic Committee and the standards should apply in all sports for all nations across the board.

    So many times we have seen some absolute no hopers taking part in the Olympic Competitions. Eric the eel for one in the swimming. Did he achieve any standard at all other than that he could swim.

    If the answer is that it is not about competition but about taking part then they girls should be allowed to go.

  • Comment number 14.

    Because the margin is so very small, I think the decent thing for the BOA to do is to look at it and be sensible about it.

    Fact is these girls could be much improved by the time the Olympics are here - and as host nation they deserve a shot at it, given the small margin.

  • Comment number 15.

    An earler comment referred to "the standard is there to ensure we don't send amateurs to the Olympics". I thought that was the rather the point? It's the taking part and not the winning? If there's a host nation place why not give someone the chance of taking part - after all, we're paying. Viva Eddie the Eagle!

  • Comment number 16.

    the point of the olympics is taking part and sending participants. You can never hope to broaden your country's range of sports if you pass up opportunities like sending people to the olympics. Obviously you have to draw a line if people are so bad at heir sport that they are dangerous to themselves or others, but this clearly isn't the case here.
    These people have signed up to the olympic dream and are trying to represent Britain in a field that will be empty of us unless they are allowed to compete. Obviously money is short so the help that can be offered is limited, but the British olympic authorities certainly shouldn't be setting random caps and stopping them from competing.
    Ok so they failed to meet the standard but the standard should never have been set in the first place! The is no British standard because there is no British competition. I suspect many of the British cyclists must be fuming to know that whilst many of them will miss out due to competition the British authorities are turning away those without competition. Most countries less fortunate than Britain would give anything for the chance to send people to the olympics regardless of how good the participants (and rightly so). It seems a little arrogant on the BOA'a part to set their own cap.

  • Comment number 17.

    I honestly feel sorry for the girls but like people have said this was a very acheivable aim set months ago which they failed to hit. Sport is a cruel business its as simple as that.

    Also don't get me started on what on earth rythmic gymnastics is doing in the Olympics. Not sure how you can be Faster, Higher or Stronger in this event and would be happy if it is eventually dropped from ther Olympics.

    Yes there are other similar events (Sychronised swimming, Dressage for example) and i also believe they should be dropped.

  • Comment number 18.

    I would like to ask what the winners mark was of this competition? How does this compare to the the top score at last autumn's World Championships? Perhaps as indicated the girls were harshly marked, we could only hope that this would be the same for all of the competing teams and that would then be reflected in everybodies marks.
    I think that we should be sending as many competitors as possible, it might be the only chance for many athletes to compete due to the cost of entering events held overseas. At every olympics you hear that the host country has more athletes entered than ever before, however the British decide to go against this in the spirit of being fair. But fair to who?

  • Comment number 19.

    I have sympathy for the team as they've obviously worked hard and given a lot, but a qualification mark was agreed and they didn't hit it. Resources for sport and the Olympics are not infinite, and if they let this team in then do they have to let in the high jumper who didn't quite jump high enough, the shooter who didn't hit quite enough targets or the weightlifter who didn't quite lift enough weight.

    Having said that, I'd rather see this team compete than a wrestling team made up entirely of people purchased from eastern Europe. That really is a scandal.

  • Comment number 20.

    What a joke. Young girls in this country in todays society are smoking, drinking etc. Some even having Children at the taxpayers expense, and then you have these hardworking young girls trying the best they can to make our country proud and what to the BOA do. Kick them in the teeth.. Take the "G" out of the GB team as it is not Great thats for sure. Good luck girls I for one am proud of you!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm not a fan of gymnastics, but for some reason I feel compelled to comment on this occasion.

    Casting aside the issue of whether the team met the 'required' performance standard, I'm puzzled by the concept of there being an option not to enter the team to compete in the Olympics.

    I recall that when London won the Olympics that one of the key 'selling points' was that it would leave a lasting legacy for British sport. How are we building that legacy if we're not allowing the best British athletes in EVERY sport take part - no matter whether they stand a chance of winning a medal or not?

    How is it possible that the BOA are considering preventing this self-funded, enthusiastic and talented group of athletes - who happen to be the best of their kind from these shores - from participating? Where's the harm in doing so?

    Their participation on such a massive stage can do nothing other than improve their own performance as a team (and therefore make them more likely to win in the future).

    Furthermore, their participation only needs to inspire one new British person to take up the sport and it will have served it's purpose. Who's to say that one person couldn't go onto be a gymnastic star who could compete for medals in 2020 or beyond?

    Obviously, in these straitened times, the next question is the cost, but if these girls and their families are self-funded (as seems to be suggested in Ollie's blog) where is the harm in granting them permission to take up a place in an event where Britain would otherwise not be represented?

    It seems ludicrous. A once in a lifetime opportunity is passed up because there is an obsession to win medals (or at least look like we could win them).

    Whatever happened to 'it's the taking part that counts'? Sporting legacies are not just measured in gold, silver and bronze. Even if the team finish stone-cold last, their presence in the Olympics is actually what this the games is all about.

  • Comment number 22.

    #6 Firstly to go to the Olympics you have to be an ameteur not a payed profesional,

    ---------------------------------

    The vast majority of our athletes are full-time professionals, many for the full 4 year Olympic cycle.

    It is rather harsh though, I assume they used the winning score from last year to set a % gold medal score, which is normal in most normal sports. But I can see how this is unfair in a sport where the scores are made up by judges, and these judges would have to be exactly the same and score in the same way for the target to be fair.

    GB did manage 83.5% of the winning score in the test event though. I think they should get another chance at least. Plenty of time until the Olympics.

  • Comment number 23.

    #18.

    Spain won the test event with 53.850, which would have got them 4th in the World Champs last year.

    #19 The girl's families pay all their costs, so far rhythmic gymnastics has cost the BOA nothing.

  • Comment number 24.

    #23.
    Thanks for the information.

    I would like to point to another sport that has a requirement to prove ability before being allowed to compete. F1, if drivers cannot prove that they and there cars are within a set margin of the fastest car they cannot compete, both for safety reasons and as a event to be viewed. but this mark is relevent to each race not one from a previous year. surely the girls should have been given a target relative to the winners mark, especially in an event that is marked subjectively by judges

  • Comment number 25.

    Quote "The standard is there to ensure we don't send amateurs to the Olympics."
    Methinks you have missed the point of the olympics alltogether.

    I participate in a sport that is practiced in many countries around the world and an Englishman has been world champion 5 years in a row - maybe we should have looked to get powerkite sports included in the olympics - something where we stand more than a good chance of a medal instead of failing to make the [ self imposed] cut in such a contrived 'sport' - This does not benefit any other team, there will be the equivalent of an 'empty lane' in this event

    I do feel for the people who have devoted so much time and money only to be barred from the games by their own Olympic comitee. I don't see any of the big medal winning countries passing up host places in the finals - I'm old enough to remember 1966, we were in the world cup finals as we were the HOST country.

  • Comment number 26.

    Who needs competion when you of the BOA to stab you in the back....

    Short sighted goverment as always, I would love to know how these BOA people got their jobs which mps did they go to private school with? who's father do they know? Do they deserve their jobs?

  • Comment number 27.

    The Olympic ideal is dead. They are the best we have and deserve to go. It saddens me GB will never have an Eddie the Eagle equivalent again. The Olympics has truly lost sight of the whole point of the games.

  • Comment number 28.

    So sad the the BOA are so short sighted ... these girls had the chance to go to an Olympics that is going to cost the whole nation millions and millions - they proved commitment - they proved ability. What will their memory of these games be? They were the future of this sport in the UK and they have been smashed by heartless souls who seem only to see gold....The standard was completely arbitrary, they got within 0.6% of the goal, they only needed a hand, or even a little figure to pull them through . The BOA will lose both credibility and support of the nation because of this.

  • Comment number 29.

    So much for legacy!!
    The BOA is trying to stand up for the principles of fair play in sport by trying to exclude drug cheats. Well done
    However, it has forgotten one of the basic principles of the Olympics- taking part . Only three people teams in any event can win a medal but all competitors have the opportunity to test themselves and become a winner by making a personal best performance.
    If BOA excludes people from the place given to us by hosting the Olympics then they are guilty of abandoning that principle simply for political reasons- because government wants us to only have performers who do well and may win a medal. The government sees the Olympics as a means of pormoting an image of this in a way not dissisimlar to that used by the East European countries. The Olympic movement including the BOA opposed that stance in favour of the principle of sport for sports sake. Our government with its lack of vision and understanding of sport does not see the Olympics as a means to encourage future participation. It has spent £9billion but can't see that excluding British sportspeople in favour of a team from another country who may only finish in the same, or an even lower position will be wasting that investment. What a waste of taxpayers money.

    Those girls have shown their commitment by funding themselves. Have the British Gymnastics staff and BOA staff who have made this decision funded themselves- not likely.

    Instead of boosting this sport for the future they have undermined it.
    Every person involved in this decision should step back, put themselves in the shoes of these girls and then sit down and reconsider either putting sport first not politics or their own positions.
    As they are at the moment they are all guilty of putting politics before sport and their position is untenable.

  • Comment number 30.

    The IOC gave us an opportunity to enter a team in this event. A heaven sent chance to promote this particular minority sport in the UK. Governing bodies are supposed to encourage participation and Rythmic Gymnastics and the British Olympics Association have failed miserably in this respect. So what if the girls come last in the competition they would have learned so much from the other international competitors, as would the coaches and support people.

    Swallow your pride Rythmic Gymnasts and BOA, it's not too late to enter the team...
    Just Do It!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    So let me try and understand this.
    The BOA refuse to send a team to the "home" Olympics because they needed to achieve a particular standard in the event. And the pinnacle for this event is probably the Olympics. But, on the other hand, it's OK to "manufacture" a GB football team for probably the only time just because the Olympics are at "home". And it's ok for players who are not good enough to play for their respective home nations to play for this GB football team.

    Is it too much to ask the BOA to be consistent?
    The word "perverse" doesn't even begin to describe the situation.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ #6 amateur. are all the USA basket ball players amateur. Let's not mention the tennis players and Beckham and Giggs.

    I am torn here. They were set a standard and didn't reach it. However 90% of the audience will be made up of brits who would love nothing more than tocheer them on.

    As for taking up a berth and preventing another nation competing, that nation would have fully expected GB to field a team and they should have ensured their own participation at the world champs or other qualifying events.

    On balance, I think they should go as they have improved and are self funded.

  • Comment number 33.

    Sad story, but it's even more sad that the target was set in agreement by the BOA and the teams coaches. The coaches were a part of the decision that this should be the score required, so let's not have a go at the BOA too much!

    Other sports have had to prove their standard of performance and some have missed out (volleyball if I'm remembering correctly) but as this is a group of teeneage girls people seem to be up in arms.

    As I said, sad story, but it's a story that's true for many people in the world of sport!

  • Comment number 34.

    Feel sorry for the girls, but good on the BOA we are constantly thinking that trying our best is good enough in this country. We seem to be happy with 2nd place and although these girls worked hard and they weren't good enough simple! I am sure we'll hear lots of the stories before the olympics, lets look forward and celebrate the people and teams who do make it!

  • Comment number 35.

    The BOA aren't even funding them. It's not like they can say 'we've supported you so much and yet you've failed so your'e not going' they did it off their own back and missed by a fraction, it's not costing them anything to let them go there, how many athletes that the BOA support will do worse than them? I bet there'd be a fair few!! Just let them go, who else are they gonna send? stupid selfish BOA.

  • Comment number 36.

    I do feel sorry for the girls but I just read the following on news article about this.


    In the individual rhythmic event, which is separate, Francesca Jones is still expected to compete at London 2012 for Britain.

    Jones, who represented Wales at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, finished last of 25 at the test event with a score of 88.600, 21 points behind Russian victor Daria Kondakova.

    Unlike the Britons competing in the group event, Jones reached last year's World Championships, which proved enough to get the nod to compete at the Olympics. Her scores at the test event do not affect Britain's place in the individual event at the Games.


    So Britain will be represented in Rhythmic Gymnastics by someone who did make the grade. It's unfortunate for the girls to loose the chance by such a margin. However the Olympics are for professional sports(except Boxing for some reason) and there is a certain grade. Lets not forget the girls and their coaches agreed to 'standard'. I agree perhaps it should of been a % of this years result not last years (although it is harder for the girls to know quite what standard was minimum that way). It's incredibly harsh and I would not blame the BOA if they did back out the agree and say due to the margin of error (less than 1%) but equally I'm not going to lambast them for sticking to their guns.

  • Comment number 37.

    Whilst I have no interest in Rythmic Gymnastics, I am a huge Olympic fan and love watching it every 4 years...

    Now if I was giving the opportunity to be there and only missed out by a small margin I would expect, given that the IOC i.e. the people who are in charge of the Olympics deem it acceptable, the governing body of the country I live in that is hosting the games would recognise the effort, time and money invested despite no help and or investment from them, a small amount of leeway and thus the chance to compete at the games.

    If I had failed by a huge margin and was Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards then fair enough, but these girls clearly are not as they only missed out by 0.273, they may not be in with a chance of a medal, but of the 100's of competitors who go to the games most are not either, so why not send them, give the country and the spectators someone to cheer, they clearly have talent and have worked hard, who knows they could achieve something and get funding for the next games in Rio!

    If you dont give someone a chance to perform on the greatest stage of all, when do you give them a chance?

  • Comment number 38.

    What a joke,

    Acrobatic gymnastics should be in the Olympics instead of Rhythmic gymnatics.
    "Acro" is the up and comming event and we are already world champs in various disiplines, its about time Rhythmic was dropped altogether and replaced with the better and more entertaining Acro which is booming in this country.

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't agree with a lot of these comments. The world championships in many sports is about the best of the best and the elite competing. Olympics is supposed to be about inclusion. The best still win but the underlying principle of taking part was what made the olympics different, at least to me. Now its just another world champioship under another name. Sad.

  • Comment number 40.

    They agreed on a qualification score. They didn't need to. They could have set it to a more achieveable mark. They didn't. If you are not good enough you don't get to go. You can see why they are refusing to put people forwards just because they are host nation and an agreement has to be held to do that. If the score was that close then they weren't good enough.

    It's rip roaringly sad but it was what they agreed upon and they just weren't good enough. If I was the girls I'd be more annoyed at the coaches in general (although the requirements were probably agreed in conjunction with all the performers and parents though I bet).

  • Comment number 41.

    I find this incredibly mean-spirited. It's our home Olympics, they are not going to look silly, we are not going to spend a fortune sending them to the other side of the world for heavens sake! OK they won't win but that doesn't matter - most of our athletes won't

    For me, this group epitomise the original spirit of the Olympics. LOCOG are very good at talking about increasing participation in sport. Is it any wonder that isn't happening when things like this happen?

    I really hope that the BOA reconsider and make it very clear they are proud of these girls. I am, and I'm not even a gymnastics fan.

  • Comment number 42.

    While I agree that British athletes should be up to a certain standard in order to claim the host nation place, I wonder where the 82% came from. It seems like an odd target.

    From what I have seen, the gymnasts gave a good account of themselves and comparing them to Eddie the Eagle and Eric the Eel seems pretty unfair.

    It is also worth noting that they would not be denying anyone else a place (according to BBC Breakfast this morning) as there does not need to be an even number of teams. If our volleyball/handball/water polo teams etc are not up to scratch, but still take the host nation place, then they are denying another team a place, but that is not the case in this instance.

  • Comment number 43.

    I don't feel sorry for them at all, because I'm German ! Our German Athletes will give you Brits a good run for your money soon, bring home the Gold !

  • Comment number 44.

    Likely the first of many similar failures for Britain ... bring on the London Olympics White Elephant farce!

  • Comment number 45.

    Whilst I would normally support the principle of minimum qualification standards for sporting major events when funding is scarce, in this case i would like to share two thoughts; firstly, this was not a qualification standard set by a sports governing body but an organisation that had not actually provided any financial support whatsoever for the athletes. Secondly, we seem to have forgotten that in July we are welcoming the world to London to participate in a spectacle which we probably never be repeated in most of our lifetimes. Whether our athletes finish in first place or a long way back in last place, surely we have a responsibility to be standing side by side with our guests on the starting line.

    Demonstrating our support for every different event that we will host will send out a much better message to the world about our great nation than cynically dismissing any event that will not produce a top 10 finish - if ever the adage "its not the winning that counts but the taking part that counts" was important it is now!

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi all - simply to say, thank you for taking the time to comment. The views expressed here serve to illustrate how tricky these waters are to navigate: there is essentially an even split between those who say the team should go, and those who believe the right decision has been made.

    Personally, I reckon the BOA may be sorely tempted to revise their decision and let the gymnasts compete, particularly given that the team produced a score of 47.200 (a full two marks clear of the target) today. The team will say that proves they can do it; others will say that failing to deliver on the specified day proves they were not up to the task of living with the pressure of a home Olympics.

    Of course, if the BOA does decide to let the rhythmic team compete, that opens up a can of worms the organisation may struggle to control the closer we get to the Games. Think how easy it will be for other athletes, denied the right to compete in any remotely similar fashion, to point to the rhythmic team and, with a shrug of the shoulders, ask: "You let them compete. Why not me?" That then becomes the sort of thing that, not too far down the line, winds up in court and gets ugly indeed.

    And yet conversely, as one or two have mentioned above, sending this team to the Games would come at incredibly little financial burden, while providing the tens of thousands who have bought rhythmic gymnastics tickets - the majority of them British - with a home team for whom to cheer. Ask your average TV viewer or ticket-holder if they want there to be a British team or not, and the answer would surely be an overwhelming 'yes', regardless of the intricacies surrounding how they got there and whether it is deserved.

    Of course, there are good reasons why TV viewers and ticket-holders don't select British Olympic teams. But I still reckon a few people at the BOA are mulling over ways of resolving this in the team's favour without any loss of face or credibility. I'm not sure that can be done. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, happens next.

  • Comment number 47.

    Fair comment Ollie. I must say, however, that I am shocked at the arbitrary and overly rigid fashion in which these girls are being judged. I understand a benchmark needs to be set and GB does not want an embarrassing team to attend. However, I think it is highly unrealistic to set a competitive benchmark to be met at one attempt.

    Imagine if the GB sprinters had 1 shot at making the Olympics - it would be crazy. It is crazier still in a sport where human error plays such a huge part. There can be no genuine concerns re legacy or embarrassment when only the next day, in the exact same venue, the girls showed what everybody knew yesterday - that they were well capable of making the benchmark.

    Contrast athletics events such as the 100m, where athletes have between May 2011 and July 2012 (over a year) to qualify. Why could the girls not be given a series of events in which to hit the mark. Nobody would say "You're not going, tough luck!" to Mark Cavendish if he failed to meet the Olympic standard in one race. Such comments cannot genuinely be made by people with full knowledge of the facts.

    Nobody can deny that these girls have made the grade and the BOA/GB should do the right thing and not crush their dreams based on a ludicrous technicality.

  • Comment number 48.

    Can you imagine the pride these girls would feel when they went out to compete for their country at the olympic games.They would nearly burst with the memory when it was evoked years later. The naysayers and begrudgers are wrong,let them compete BOA. You are british,it is your olympic games.You will gain many friends and lose nothing. Let them compete.

  • Comment number 49.

    If, as this suggests there is an automatic place for the British Rhythmic Gymnastic team then to not take that place because of such a small margin is ridiculous...it's not set by IOC rules.

    So yet again, people who are willing to fund themselves, get the training and coaching are shot down in flames.....

    All the while we seem to just allow bureaucrats and idiots to decide how things are run...remember the scoring is done by people, the same fallible humans who make mistakes all the time....and it's only their opinion on a routine...

    The whole thing is pathetic and this decision needs to be reviewed.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think this is a really unfortunate decison by the BOA. Has the much talked about team GB football team had to qualify or set a standard to qualify? I assume they will be playing thanks to a host nation slot. That is a team that has never played together and 6 months from the games no one knows what the make up of the team will be.

    For Britian not to take all of its places in gymnastics is not a good situation. As people have mentioned above hosting the olympics should be used as a way to promote sport which it sounds like this group certainly could. They have achieved the required standard since the test event (some could argue a good thing as they're not peaking too early!). When does the applications end? I haven't read anything that says places are closed.

    One can only hope common sense prevails and a dedicated group of athletes, families and supporters are rewared by being allowed to compete at the highest level.

  • Comment number 51.

    HOW DARE THE B.O.A. SAY THAT THEY DO NOT WANT AMATEURS IN THE OLYMPIC GAMES...WHAT ARE OR WERE THE OLYMPICS?...A COMPETITION FOR AMATEURS...B.O.A. YOU ARE A JOKE...NO WONDER OUR COUNTRY HAS NO DECENT UP AND COMING ATHLETES....YOU ARE NOTHING BUT BULLIES WHO ARE OVERPAID AND PAMPERED TOO MUCH....DO YOU SEE SMALLER COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD TELLING THEIR COMPETITORS ...YOU CANNOT COMPETE BECAUSE YOU ARE AN AMATEUR!!!!!!!!ABSOLUTE DISGRACE...HAVE A RE-THINK...GAIN SOME OF THE LOST RESPECT YOU HAVE!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm afraid that I'm with those that whilst I have sympathy with them think the right decision has been made. They were not the only ones put in this situation - other teams like water polo & handball also had to meet certain criteria before the BOA agreed to a host nation place. It's unfortunate that they missed by such a close margin but I think as Ollie has intimated it would be a dangerous precednt for the BOA to relax their stance. I don't think any of us want to see th situation where people start taking legal action to get Olympic selection.

    Also have to agree with @38 that Acro Gymnastics is a far more exciting form of Gymnastics to watch and would much prefer that in the Olympics than Rythmic which I've always found a bit tedious to watch.

  • Comment number 53.

    I have every sympathy with the rhythmic gymnastic team. It must be devastating to miss out by such a small margin. However, the target was set and agreed upon beforehand. The British swimming trials in two months time will involve swimmers having to attain qualifying times and probably finish in the first two in their events - no doubt a number will fail by tiny margins. That is the nature of top class sport. Having said that, it is problematical setting a specific points target in a sport as subjective as rhythmic gymnastics, and raises the question of whether such a sport should be included in the Olympic program.
    It also must be said in defence of the gymnastic team, that there do appear to be inconsistencies in the way athletes and teams from various sports are being selected for ' Team GB'. After all, I believe that Britain have taken up host nation places in table tennis, even though no British players of either sex are ranked in the top 100 in the world!

  • Comment number 54.

    You have to have a minimum qualifying standard otherwise you end up with clowns such as Eddie the Eagle or that muppet who made an utter fool of himself in the swimming.

    I feel sorry for the individuals, because to come so close to going to the olympics and then miss out must be heartbreaking, but it is worse for others. For example we have world class cyclists who would have a great chance of medals who have missed out because the qualification rules were changed.

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm one of these people who thinks that the host nation (whoever it is) should not automatically qualify teams for an Olympics and that the host teams and indivduals should try to qualify by right if they don't TOUGH. Will I be watching GB being stuffed in Handball, Volleyball and Water Polo? Don't think so.

  • Comment number 56.

    Seems a bit counter productive to set an arbitrary standard then promote a legacy. How is there going to be a legacy in event which doesn't get the mass media attention if they're turning people away who want to compete at that level?

  • Comment number 57.

    I think they should have been allowed to compete, why?
    To get the next generation interested, frankly we should enter a team in every event, no matter how poor they are, simply as it would show the range of sports and give kids a target to beat alongside an example that its ok to finish last, it hurts but its something that happens, something that a lot of kids need to learn. Also encouraging the competitors to be gracious losers but to be proud of having competed would also set a good example for the next and current generations and show the best of British (triumphant winners but gracious and courageous losers willing to give it a go no matter the odds)
    Also the commentators for the Beeb and other broadcasters could be persuaded to encourage any kids interested in that sport to take it up and show the world that Britain can do better, it could get a lot of kids into sports they otherwise would not have considered. Plus in 2016 or 2020, we might actually get a medal winning team, solely through grit to prove a point next time and win!

  • Comment number 58.

    Surely the objective of these qualifier activities is to say "OK, its our Olympics, we do not want to enter some complete numpties into event X to embarrass our Nation"
    Clearly this group of dedicated athletes were VERY competent and good at what they do...albeit not yet world class. So shall we give them a chance on the big stage to do our nation proud? Nahhh....

    As usual our stinking English attitude of HIDING behind the safety of 'numbers' wins the day.

    As many others have said... it's a great big opportunity missed to be able to put another lesser known sport into the British spotlight and inspire some more young people to get active and get involved in sport!! Hmmm...Olympics legacy? Try again BOA.

  • Comment number 59.

    Good effort, but they didn't make the grade. Sport is tough. Get over it.

  • Comment number 60.

    Well, all very sad, but can someone explain how 82% of the score at a particular event was chosen as the pass mark ? Not 75% or 85% or 57.3% ? Would make the story more meaningful if the logic could be expanded on.

    A second though - surely the IOC giving the host nation places is something of a "thank-you for hosting" gesture, and to ensure local interest in all events ? If they got knocked out of the competition early on it'd hardly be a world class embaressment, would it ?

  • Comment number 61.

    if Jamaica can send a bobsleigh team to the olympics surely these girls deserve a chance

  • Comment number 62.

    The BOA decision is an absolute disgrace. How is it in the public interest, UK sport or even legacy reasons to not have a representative in a discipline, because of a self imposed standard which is flawed to begin with? - particularly given the fact that these girls missed out by a very slim margin and are self funded.

    Its not like these girls aren't competitive they missed out on the self imposed standard by a very thin margin - a margin that could be turned around come Olympics when you have added motivation and greater support. Also I could understand the decision if we had other representatives to take their place in this discipline but the fact that we don't makes the decision the more bizarre.

    Surely the fact that they are self funded should be encouraged especially given the current circumstances? - BOA have a limited pot of money, so when people who have self funded themselves come along, and are competitive, surely you should make a concession especially when the margin is so tight. I mean that would surely inspire more people to self fund themselves and get into lesser known sports like Rhythmic gymnastics - ala legacy...the BOA's decision in my opinion is a joke.

  • Comment number 63.

    Let's be honest here, 82% of the score from the World Championships was a fair target to be set, and if they believed it was too high they shouldn't have agreed to it. It seems a bit harsh that they missed by such a small margin, but it doesn't matter if you fail by 0.1 or 5.1, if you miss the grade you miss the grade. You cannot make exceptions here or else you will be accused of showing favourtism to this sport.

    It will be a shame for these girls to not represent their country but then perhaps this shows that the current structure shows it is correct in providing funding to those individuals with the greatest chance of achieving medals. There is a finite amount of money and it has to be shared out somehow. The fact is that with this score they clearly had no chance of achieving a podium finish. Would you take the funding from more successful sports like diving, sailing or cycling?

    At the end of the day if this seems harsh they shouldn't have agreed on the target. They gambled everything on achieving the target, and now they've lost everything. The BOA are not at fault, the people involved with agreeing that target, are.

  • Comment number 64.

    Seeing as they smashed the target score yesterday, and as an average score from the two days, the BOA should have a review of their decision.

  • Comment number 65.

    On the one hand it's admirable that the BOA has it's principles based on standards and ability - on the other, I think it's fair to say that any other country hosting an Olympics would have taken advantage of the situation and put the girls through!

    The REAL London 2012 issue is the undeniable fact that we have a public transport system that simply will not be able to cope in August! I live in Stratford - both the Central Line and (since the opening of the Westfield centre) Stratford station itself are already so severely over-crowded as to be at times unusuable.

  • Comment number 66.

    I love British sport. I have done for as long as I can remember. But, whether or not our insanely talented rhythmic gymnastic team are allowed to compete in the Olympics or not, I am already incredibly proud of them for everything they have achieved so far.

    This young team has incredible passion for their sport, an insane amount of determination to achieve their goal, and immense belief in each other. They may not go on to win a gold medal at the Olympics, but from the way they have conducted themselves to get this far and the passion with which they compete, British sport would be incredibly lucky to be represented by this inspiring group of young athletes. I sincerely hope that the BOA do not fail to realise this fact.

  • Comment number 67.

    @63 - The BOA funding structure is irrelevant because the team have funded themselves.

    Essentially there is no reasonable barrier to them being entered. The worst that could happen is that they finish last but as many people finish last as win! Someone will be last in every event. Surely that risk is outweighed by the exposure of the sport to a UK audience and the experience gained by the team and coaches. What is the point of hosting the games if not to provide our young people with opportunities like this?

  • Comment number 68.

    So these girls got 83.47% of the winning score of the test event and just failed to reach 82% of the score of some 'non-olympic' event... not sure how the BOA really benchmark performances, but it should be like for like - they should have set a target basis the test event winners score - END OF.
    This team should be at the Olympics representing their nation.
    Furthermore - surely these girls represent the TRUE Olympic ideals ... and not the professional sports we are going to be subjected to.

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm a fence sitter on this - I mean they didn't meet their own targets in a seemingly notorious sport for marking interpretation but they do represent the "olympic ideal" - could you imagine IF say another country asked 1-2 of those girls to compete for them and then those were in a medal winning team....only in Britain.

  • Comment number 70.

    I totally agree with quicksesh the bench mark should have been calculated on the top score of the same day, so they have the same judges etc
    I was there on Tuesday and was surprised at how low all the scores seemed to be !!!

    But also girls should have got the knot out or changed for the spare ribbon !!!!

  • Comment number 71.

    They were measured, weighed and found wanting. The bench mark these amateurs needed to achieve was 82% of a past winning score. They sadly couldn't reach these lowly heights, therefore I see absolutely no reason for them to expect a place in the competition merely because it is to be held on their home soil. After all, can we not safely assume that the standard at the Olympic Games may well be much higher?

    I blame those behind the scenes who have obviously deluded these poor people into thinking they can compete at a level that is beyond them. It is heartbreaking to see dreams smashed in such a way, and if they had been stolidly realistic about their chances from the start this situation may have been avoided.

  • Comment number 72.

    Having spent 3 days at the O2 watching the rythmic gymnastics - my view is the group should go. As I understand it -BOA are happy for them to go - it was British Gymnastics who came up with the idea that the group should achieve a score of 82% of the score obtained by the World Champions in 2011. - So this figure is just pulled out of a hat and arbitrary. Yes they need to show they can perform a credible performance - and that they did with spades. On 18th they were amazing - ahead of Ukraine on their ball routine - and Ukraine are good! - They were only 0.25 behind Azerbajan overall yesterday and only approx 6 away from the Spain who won. So yes they came last but not by much and they have until August to improve further. If they compete they will be a credit to the country. In contrast British Gymnastics have said that Frankie Jones can compete in the individual at the olympics having come last at the test event by over 20 marks and only achieving approx 76% of the winning score of the winner at the last World championships. There is no consistency by British Gymnastics. Only in Britain would this happen - indeed spectators at the competition from other countries could not understand why as a country we would not use the home nation wild card - indeed the policy of Britain was laughted at! What better legacy than to have a group who have worked so hard and improved so much at the olympics. If there is no British group- this is hardly likely to inspire others to take up the sport. YES THEY SHOULD GO !

  • Comment number 73.

    Why does the British team let situations like this occur? Other host nations take up their reserved entry allocations and as a result confidence, ambitions and performance standards grow. I've no interest in rhythmic gymnastics per se but young women who have given so much effort and time to training and have raised their own funds should not have been forced out of their chance to compete in their home games by artificially-imposed selection criteria.

  • Comment number 74.

    It's absolutely crazy, we have a place for a Rythmic Gymnastic Team, so we should send the best we have to offer and these girls are the best of British in this event. There is no Olympic qualifying socre, but they are not allowed to compete.. it's so ridiculous I was reading the article wondering if this would happen in any other country in the world.. no is the answer to that.

    @24 - Last season in F1 HRT failed the 107% qualifying time to be allowed to start the Grand Prix a couple of times, but as they were close they were allowed to start anyway, if the FIA can do it then why not BOA?

  • Comment number 75.

    Given all of the circumstances, it's ridiculous that they aren't going to be able to compete. It's shameful enough that they were left to fund themselves but to then block them from competing through some arbitrary benchmark is just... Let's face it though, is anyone surprised? They might only be young but if there's one thing we do well in this country is to stab our own in the back, especially when they're pretty good at what they do.

  • Comment number 76.

    I can see both sides of the argument. If this was a court of law one could look to previous cases - Eddie the Eagle comes to mind. The Olympics is all about taking part and not all about medals. We should take up our host place and give the young ladies a chance. Eddie didn't stand a chance but he went and had National celebrity status from it. Good luck to them, let them take part.

  • Comment number 77.

    So many comments about, "that is sport -tough cheese", and "we don't want to enter embarrassingly poor athletes". But the point is that over the three days at the Test event these girls proved themselves worthy to compete at London 2012.
    On how many occasions in the past have BG decided control selection events based on TWO routines? The answer I think is never before. Normally potential Gymnasts are monitored and scored over two or three events to decide selection - in the case of the GB Group this would be 4 or 6 routines - which would make allowances for a poor routine in the mix. The fact is that these girls easily beat the target in 3 out of 4 routines performed last week and proved their capability to put in a competitive performance. If the individual place was decided on the same basis then Frankie Jones would also not be going to London 2012 as her first two routines scored less than then GB group!

  • Comment number 78.

    Shame on anyone who said they should not take part. They were a tiny fraction away from a self imposed rule so this comment about preventing embarassment does not hold true. One of the perks of hosting the games is that you do NOT have to qualify your own participants. I can remember a Commenwealth Games swimming event where one of the competitors could hardly even swim the distance and finished about 10 minutes after everyone else. Did people laugh?? No they cheered even louder than they did for the winner. Also - think back to Eddie the Eagle - a national hero. The Olympics is meant to be about honest participation in sport - not just about winning medals. For our home Olympics the best UK team or individual we have in a sport should be entered - even if they are not as good as the rest of the world. Well done British Gymnastics and the BOA on destroying this sport in the UK for the next generation and the dreams of the team and their families. Also, what about all those who bought tickets for RG (one of the most popular events) - how will they feel about no home participation. Just for the record - I am not a RG fan but the principal must apply to all sports. I just cannot believe how inflexible we can be and not even take advantage of the honest discretion offered to home nations spedning £x bn on the games. Can't imagine many other host countries being so "fussy". It makes us look elitest and that we are only interesting in taking part when we can win. This decision must not stand!

  • Comment number 79.

    Here's another example of the true heroics of those not destined for gold!

    Eric the Eel from Sydney 2000 Olympics!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics2000/swimming/931508.stm

    His 'heat-winning' time was one minute, 52.72 seconds, over a minute longer than the fastest swimmers and also more than seven seconds off Pieter van den Hoogenband's world record in the 200m.

    But there could be no doubt that here was another Olympic hero in the making.

    "I want to send hugs and kisses to the crowd," the French-speaking Moussambani said through an interpreter.

    "It was their cheering that kept me going."

  • Comment number 80.

    This is one of the aims of the IOC in promoting the Olympics:
    ‘To encourage and support the promotion of ethics and good governance in sport as
    well as education of youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails …’

    Well I think it is fair to say that British Gymnastics has missed nearly all of those aims in one fell swoop.

    Why on earth have 2 completely separate policies for Host nation qualification in the same discipline?
    Why is it ok for the individual to secure her place by being the best Britain competing at the World Championships in 2011 – no benchmark score was set and no future targets set and no apparent issue of credibility here.
    Meanwhile the Group has been through several selection events culminating with the London Test Event, where they had to reach their benchmark score. They were not competing against the other nations; they were there to show the BOA and BG that they could give a credible performance, so why on earth would your own governing body decide that only day 1 and day 2 of competition would count and that the final day 3 would not! It just doesn’t make sense! In the Final the girls got an amazing 47.200, which is well above the 45.223 or 82% 2011 world championship score. The individual gymnast achieved approx only 76% of the 2011 world championship score. Where is the consistency of policy here? Anyone in the stadium that day would not have failed to have been moved and inspired by the amazing guts and dignity the gymnasts displayed and the crowd went wild for them. This is what we need at the Olympics, greatness is not always about being the best!

    Come on British Gymnastics support your own gymnasts who have been nothing but, hardworking, inspiring and fantastic role models for all!

 

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