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Rhythmic gymnasts' reprieve leaves questions unanswered

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Ollie Williams | 08:40 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Great Britain's rhythmic gymnastics team will go to London 2012, but large gaps remain in our knowledge of how their Olympic bid disintegrated into argument, anguish and acrimony.

On Monday an independent arbitrator found in favour of the gymnasts, delivering a verdict noteworthy for its devastating assessment of governing body British Gymnastics' "inconsistent, cut-and-paste" selection policy.

From the arbitrator's account of what both sides had to say, it is hard to argue with his decision. The gymnasts contended that, in a crucial three-day Olympic test event, British Gymnastics never really told them their window to hit a target score only extended to the first two days. The full 16-page verdict suggests the selection document fell well short of making this explicit. It does not say the rhythmic gymnasts' interpretation was correct, merely that the document is ambiguous enough to support the conclusion they reached.

While for many the end result is the right one, some of the detail remains underwhelming. There were a number of opportunities for the team to discover that day two was deadline-day, ahead of the fateful hour. How did they miss them all?

British rhythmic gymnasts wave to crowd

Riding a wave - Britain's rhythmic gymnasts at their January test event, before the dire nature of their Olympic predicament became apparent. Photo: Getty Images

Speaking over the phone on Monday once the verdict had been announced, Sarah Moon - the team's coach - said she and her gymnasts had simply "read and understood the policy to mean the entire test event" rather than the first two days.

And if you read the policy, its wording is confusing enough to support that. But this supposes there was absolutely no verbal, or other written, communication between British Gymnastics senior management and the coach and team on this issue. No meetings to clarify targets? No informal chat about the big day coming up? No text messages, even?

If it's true that the lone communication between team and bosses was this copy of the written selection policy, you could be forgiven for finding that alarming. It implies the team existed in a near-vacuum within their own sport.

Beyond that, what about media coverage? Reporters in the arena were 100% certain that day two was the cut-off point. We had been told this well in advance by British Gymnastics and articles published prior to and during the event, both in the national press and online, reflected that.

Most of the British rhythmic gymnastics team have followed me on Twitter since we first met in December last year, and I tweeted fairly relentlessly on this front for a good couple of days before the test event. Granted, nobody reads every tweet in their stream, but the team members were active on Twitter at the time. Between the seven women in the squad, their coach and their families, even allowing for everybody's focus before the event, it is surprising that not one saw a tweet, or read an article, and thought it strange that the media's interpretation of their week ahead did not remotely match their own.

This is not to accuse anybody on the team of being anything other than truthful. Brian Hutchison, father to gymnast Lynne, went on the BBC's News Channel late on Monday to point out that the entire family had paid for tickets to day three, with all the consequent travel and accommodation costs. His argument is there would be little point in that outlay if you knew the result that day to be meaningless.

On the other side of the coin, it is similarly odd that British Gymnastics did not pick up, in the weeks prior to the event, even one hint that its rhythmic gymnastics team were harbouring an interpretation of the selection policy so far removed from the governing body's intention. Would you not check this?

These incredibly hard-working teenagers are self-funded in a sport with little or no history of elite competition in the UK. They are not daft - they have always come across as industrious, bright, alert and determined to succeed. How could they and their coach have reached a major international event, one on which their entire Olympic bid hinged, with an understanding of their circumstances which differed so vastly from the truth?

On the day itself, after the fateful score - 0.273 marks below the target - had appeared on the O2 Arena's giant scoreboard, the team were whisked away into a private area behind large, black curtains. They were joined by their head of delegation, Tim Jones, one of British Gymnastics' most senior figures and a man who knew this was, indeed, curtains for the rhythmic gymnasts' Olympic hopes. The arbitrator noted he had held a meeting with members of senior management that morning with the express purpose of confirming that this was the team's last chance.

Five minutes later, all of them - including Jones - emerged from behind those curtains in tears, to face the media. Nobody has yet explained what happened in the intervening minutes, though Jones was unavailable for interview when we asked on Monday.

The team insist they did not discover the discrepancy over dates until they were being interviewed in the mixed zone. Accepting that, does this mean Jones did not say a word behind the scenes in those five minutes? This seems odd, considering he was adamant in the mixed zone moments later that the team could not possibly go to the Games. This is a point you would want to make clear prior to the gymnasts facing the media.

British Gymnastics' chief executive, Jane Allen, admitted to BBC Sport on Monday that despite six weeks of introspection in the ensuing appeals process, she still did not know what had happened behind those curtains as the confusion reached an agonising climax.

"I have no idea as to what happened when they were taken from public view. I was sitting in the stands as other people were, I was watching the event and then watching the score come up," she said.

As the BBC conducted interviews with the team, they were crying even as they told us they would fight on during day three, which we knew to be impossible under the briefing British Gymnastics had given us. Why the tears if they believed they had an extra day to get that score?

Britain's rhythmic gymnasts in tears at Olympic test event

Tears from the GB gymnasts even as they finish their day two routine. When were they told this was supposedly their last chance? Photo: Getty Images

"We thought we had the two opportunities to get the score but amongst ourselves we'd set the target of achieving it in the first part of the competition, because obviously we wanted to get it done and dusted," explains coach Moon.

"When we didn't get it in the first part, the team were upset for themselves - the training had gone so, so well the whole previous week, but they knew themselves when they came off that it wasn't a good routine.

"They then saw the score and were like, 'Oh no, that's one of our chances completely gone.' Immediately some of the girls were saying, 'Alright, it's fine, we've got tomorrow.' They were telling the girls that were crying to stop.

"Unfortunately, later that evening we were told: 'No, that's it.'"

Did Tim Jones say anything in those five minutes behind the curtain? "No. It wasn't until we spoke in the mixed zone that we realised."

For many reasons this verdict is a cause for celebration: on the evidence presented, the correct decision has been reached. British Gymnastics has borne the findings with good grace - Allen adds there will be no internal "witch-hunt" in the aftermath, despite the faulty document - and the arbitrator took time to acknowledge that the governing body acted in good faith at all times. The gymnasts maintained the most professional and dignified of images in the public throughout an emotionally trying and uncertain period.

However, that this level of calamity - at the most vital and damaging moment in these gymnasts' careers - could be solely the product of one badly worded document reflects poorly on all those involved, suggests a total absence of communication, and remains difficult to adequately explain.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Excellent blog Ollie. At face value, the decision looks dodgy, if not down right stupid by BG: we have a host place and they put (pardon the pun) hoops for the team to jump through to get there.

    But you raise some exceedingly interesting questions - questions I fear we will never get answers to - about how BG and the team came to end up in a situation where no doubt great expense was made for QCs and legal teams to make an appeal to get a team to the Games that should already have been there.

    In your opinion Ollie - do heads need to roll after what can only be described as a debacle?

  • Comment number 2.

    Ollie, I suspect you're missing the wood for the trees here; perhaps because the original hard luck story, the high (arbitrary) bar, the tiny margin, a cluster of 'go-get-em' self-funding pretty girls crying publically, the 'life lesson' on failure, was so attractive to the journalist in you. You seem - dare I day it - a little miffed that it has been taken away.

    If I had to make a guess, and all it can be is a wild unevidenced guess, I'd say that a result has been reached that suits all parties, even if not by the route desired.

    My hunch is that these girls were well fit for the target, and everyone knew it - it may even have been chosen with that in mind, to 'produce' a narrative of these hard-working self-funded lasses, and avoid criticism of taking host places, and BOA money with little real medal chance. BOA has to be frugal, don't you know - or be seen to be. So it suited BG and Jones to talk up the "do or die" moment narrative to the assembled media, especially when they were so well set after day one.

    And then the unthinkable happened; two equipment malfunctions, and they missed out on the mark by a fraction - less than 0.5% of the target score, less than 0.3 of a mark. and all hell breaks loose, because BG have now talked themselves into a corner. If they'd completely flopped, they could walk away, but 0.3 of a mark? After an equipment malfunction? Hmm...trouble ahead.

    They can't go back on it - they've told the press, and we know what the press does if they go back on it - it's an Olympic wasted money, bloat story - so they have to stand by it. Cue crushed girls - so what do you think Mr Jones might (and this is pure whimsical hypothesis) have said behind that curtain.

    Something like "You've missed the mark, we have to be seen to exclude you. But if you appeal on grounds you thought it was whole event... Now girls, make sure the media know how upset, and most of all how confused!!, you all are" ?

    It's always good to assume what you see is only the bit in front of the curtain - the bit behind the curtain is the bit they don't want you to see. for good reason.

    My 2c

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't mind if they didn't meet the qualifying standard.

    Interest in the sport will double now there is home participation and this will make for a great atmosphere.
    The proffessionalisation of what should be an amateur olympics takes the fun out of it.
    The basketball and football should take a leaf out of boxings lead and put amateur teams forward - or get out of the games.

  • Comment number 4.

    It was stupid in the first place to have a deadline midway through a qualifying/test event - I think it was a fairly reasonable expectation of the girls to believe if they were attending a qualifying event, the whole event would be taken into account. Having the cut off before the final is one of the most stupid things I've seen in sport.

  • Comment number 5.

    It seems to me that British Gymnastics decided well in advance that only artistic gymnastics was worthy of their support: they are the people that get funding, TV coverage and limelight, while the rhythmic gymnastics people are just kids playing with balls, aren't they? Pathetic.

  • Comment number 6.

    There are two main points should be raised to the team, irrelevant of the 2 day ruling.
    1) Did you really try in those 2 days? as athletes they should have been giving it their all in the 2 days and not saved it all for the last day
    2) IF they did really try in those 2 days then they are simply not good enough to compete

    Harsh I know, but sadly the truth.

  • Comment number 7.

    Jordan - I've sworn I'll never start calling for people's heads, particularly when (by the definition of this article, in this instance) I don't know the full details of what went on. I've asked British Gymnastics if there will be any internal recriminations, their response was there'd be "no witch-hunt" and they will "move on". Hence, I imagine nobody is losing their job. I won't pronounce on that topic. However, I agree that the legal fees incurred could have been better spent, for example by giving funding to a self-funded team, or by said self-funded team not having to fund its legal battle.

    Martin - If I might briefly cut through your aspersion, the end result actually ensures the story continues, rather than anything being "taken away". Had they lost, that would have been that, and this would be the end of the line. Now, there is a team for us to report on at the Games this summer. Hard-luck tales are far removed from the point being made here, which is that a lot of people seem to have missed a lot of opportunities to avoid this particular tale ever having to pan out in quite the way it has.

    And indeed, as you say, this whole piece makes clear that the "only bit I've seen is in front of the curtain". Nobody seems sure of what happened behind said curtain, but I feel like those minutes, if ever properly accounted for, may help us understand exactly what went on here. I can't start pointing fingers or shouting about wrongdoing (in the way to which you allude) because the evidence is not there but, after six weeks of this appeals process, you'd think it might be, wouldn't you?

    Brekkie - Theoretically, the cut-off before the final was to replicate the pressure of Olympic qualifying being felt by the other teams. The test event also served as a full-on Olympic qualifying event for other international gymnasts, who had to finish above a certain position to reach the Games. They had to do that in qualifying, not in the final (which meant nothing to anybody, really), so British Gymnastics said that should be the same for the GB team, to replicate that sense of having to achieve on a given day.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am not a fan of Rythmic Gynastics but i must admit i watched this with interest when I heard. From an impartial observer I think the fault is two-fold.

    Firstly having a deadline only part way through a tournament is ridiculous.
    Secondly I find it inconceivable that professional athletes (Money aside they are trainig as a pro would) would not know the full ins and outs of what they were required to do and when they were required to do it.

    It would be interesting to know how many of the swimmers are unaware that the Olympic qualifying time does not count if set in the heats. I would argue that everyone is aware of what they need to do.

    Conspiracies aside, I am happy for them that they can represent their country at the olympics. Well Done girls.

  • Comment number 9.

    @Martin from Belfast - it was really only one possible 'equipment malfunction' - the knot in the ribbon - but even that is actually pretty common in RG. Dropping the apparatus (whichever it might be) is commonplace TBH. One possibly interesting point is if they had chosen to have a spare ribbon rather than two hoops (groups are allowed two spare apparatus just outside the carpet which they can choose to retrieve in place of a ball / hoop etc rolling half way across the other side of the arena if things go wrong) whether the penalty might have been less than soldiering on with the knotted ribbon. I don't know the COP well enough to say with any certainty though.

    I think Steve Green needs to go. End of. He has made the entire BG federation look incompetent and petty.

  • Comment number 10.

    I read every tweet in my stream, and from @BBCSports_Ollie it was pretty clear from the eve of the SECOND day of the test event that the team was crestfallen to have missed qualification by a few tents of a point.

    At no stage, during the interviews and statements reported on your own twitter account did I get the impression that: a) the girls had a different interpretation than yours on the target to achieve and when, b) that you got the impression they might have a different idea than yourself on the dates prior to competing.

    I am confused to no end. At the time much was made of them missing the mark by a very small margin, no mention of confusion over the parameters of qualification.

    The more muddled the story, the less credible the tale.

    Maybe they should be let go to the Olympics because they sob so very well.

  • Comment number 11.

    Good luck to them glad they made it and to the artistic side as well.. As for the background to it all, well,my experience of Britiah Gymnastics leaves something to be desired, too many egos floating around at the top, so not too surprised what happened.

  • Comment number 12.

    @7
    Surely with the reponse of British Gymnastics that there'd be "no witch-hunt" and they will ''move on'', this proves that they all knew about the 2 days and have used a legal loophole to put an underperforming team through.
    This is almost as farcical as the FA appealing against Rooney's deserved 3 match ban.

  • Comment number 13.

    While I agree that having a deadline mid-way through a competition is faintly ridiculous, I'm afraid that I just do not believe the NO-ONE involved with the team did not know EXACTLY when the deadline for qualification was.

    A deadline is a deadline, and the team failed to qualify. It seems rather unfair on all teams, from any sport, who qualified fairly for them to be allowed to compete because the girls were upset. Not a good example to children (or, indeed, any of society) - if you don't get your own way, don't worry, you can cry about it and that will get you what you weren't capable of achieving.

    This might sound harsh, but that's life, and I think that this ruling has made a total mockery of Olympic qualifying across the board.

  • Comment number 14.

    Ollie

    mea culpa, mea maxima culpa - I meant no aspersion, much less a slur on your character! Only that there is the normal journalistic frission around a good story, and the possible frustration when it changes.

  • Comment number 15.

    Agree that it feels a bit slippery. But I also think the governing bodies across the board have taken the wrong tack with participation. Lets get everybody we can competing. Fund the world class performers in any event. If our best in an event aren't world class, don't fund them, but don't stop them from entering self funded. If you want to kickstart some things that are minority sports in this country, lets get some people with passion for them taking part, expose them to big events and maybe, just maybe with experience and a raised profile something will happen. For rhythmic gymnastics and greco-roman wrestling and whatever else is out there - this was the chance to shine some light on them. Good luck to the girls

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    @Ollie

    For what its worth, the looming British Wrestling debacle raises far more worrying questions, around funding, plastic brits (doesn't bother me particularly, but others, e.g. martin samuel sure do get exercised), and to my mind especially, marriage 'gaming'..

  • Comment number 18.

    There is a whiff of face-saving about this verdict, but it is the right verdict. To have a perfectly good team eligible for a home Olympics and not enter them for it is madness.

    Good luck to the girls in the summer.

  • Comment number 19.

    Lets be happy that there is another GB team in the Olympics, from my understanding the mark is totally arbitrary anyway. Also it is not like cycling where lots of public money (lottery) is spent on it. Judging by British Gymnastics in general the team will have to dig in their own pockets so why not if they are good enough? Why wouldn't BG want a team to go? Its about time this side of the sport were showcased.

  • Comment number 20.

    hectoring - This is the thing. We journalists were absolutely certain, before and on the day, that day two was the big deal and day three meant nothing. Hence I tweeted with certainty about it. However, the moment the team finished and came to talk to us, it was clear they were confused and thought they had another shot on Wednesday. I'm sorry if this didn't come across in my tweets at the time (I can't find them to check, if anyone can dredge up my tweets from 16-18 Jan 2012 then by all means send a link!), but I definitely reported it in this blog the following day - which deals specifically with their confusion.

    However, at the time there was no appeal to report on and while it was odd that the gymnasts appeared so confused, it wasn't apparent that this would go on to play the vital part it subsequently has. Hence the focus on the score and the narrow margin by which they failed to reach it, rather than what we now discover to be a right old palaver about dates.

    Martin - Agreed that wrestling has weightier, and farther-reaching, implications both for that sport and beyond. Did you see the Daily Mail report on Sunday re passports for two of the women on the team?

  • Comment number 21.

    I wish them well, and admire their endeavour, but these are lucky girls. They should be very grateful to their governing body that a loosely worded selection policy document gave them a legal lifeline.

    My interpretation is that the team absolutely understood - as did everyone in the British gymnastics community and media - that the criteria for *automatic* selection required them to make the score in the qualification event. This, by the way, is standard for Olympic qualification across all the gymnastics disciplines. Only 'Competition I' (historically at the preceding World Championships, and now also at the 'second chance' qualification /test event) determines qualifying spots. The girls from other nations who were competing at the test event for 'genuine' qualification spots also knew that the qualification competition was all that mattered and was their very final chance to make the Games. In gymnastics, you simply have to deliver on the day.

    What I do believe is that the GB girls did not necessarily understand how hard and fast the BG / BOA selection rules were. I think they probably that felt British Gymnastics could and would be inclined to relax their criteria - that they could twist the arm of the Performance Director if they did better the next day. Of course, that would have made a mockery of the whole process and required BG to sacrifice all credibility... which ironically they have lost anyway...

  • Comment number 22.

    @Ollie

    Yes, I did indeed - as a bit of a sport omnivore I follow these things :-) - I have considerable sympathy in particular for Stadnik who seems pretty committed to the cause - but 1) it raises questions as to whether this was always the plan, to bring in good foreigners under the guise of training partners and 2) the spate of marriages which, frankly, is very worrying - because that to me is verging on criminal investigation territory, and could by extension give troubles to the whole organisation, including British born athletes.

    Would BW not have been better looking at the ranks of british born judo players for talent transfer?

    and I say this as someone who has relatively little time for the plastic brit controversy - in my view if you have a legitimate passport, you're in - you represent the country in all its diversity, and that includes 'born and bred (redgrave, henman),dual nationals (ofili-porter, ben gordon), overseas territorians (proctor), 'new british' (lindford christie, Tessa Sanderson, rusedski), and diaspora (Keri-anne payne, tweddle), not just some 'central casting' version of britishness

  • Comment number 23.

    All very unsatisfactory it seems & I can't help thinking there is fault on both sides here - poor communications from British Gymnmastics but also if the selection guidelines were ambiguous you'd think the gymnasts & certainly their coaches would have sought clarification from British Gymnastics.

    I wonder also if all the publicity surrounding this will help them in the end - maybe thrug sponsorship. They've certainly got far more column inches than they would have done if they had qualified as set out by British Gymnastics

  • Comment number 24.

    is the Olympic Games about the taking part, not always about winning? do we remember Eddie the eagle Edwards for winning, or for the fact he did not fall on his backside, do we remember the swimming lad from Africa because he came last, or because he finished the course after only learning to swim some short months ago, these and other iconic Olympic moments would be lost if all we concerned ourselves about was winning, we are the host nation!! we have the right to participate in every single event.... and we should, why should we deprive someone who has worked so hard to be the best in Britain, a chance to represent his or her country, just because we are scared they might come last!!!!! the experience they gain and the publicity they might bring to that sport just might inspire some other kid to give it a go, is it not inspiration we want to give to our kids??? its a stupid rule the BOC have dreamed up

  • Comment number 25.

    Beerey - I'm with you on this. Look at most of the most memorable Olympic moments and it's not the actual performances we remember. Derek Redmond was a good athlete but will always be remembered being carried over the line by his dad. Daley Thompson was a legend but will always be remembered for his backflip or whistling th national anthem. The authorities may seek to achieve set standards but by doing this they remove the human stories and the Olympic legacy will be poorer for it.

  • Comment number 26.

    The director of BG Jo Allen, has said that there will be no internal witch hunt at BG, but she has accepted the resignation of Jo Coombs, the technical chairperson of Rhythmic Gymnastics who was one of the signatories of the selection policy. This is because her evidence supported the group's case at the appeal hearing and so her position then became untenable.

  • Comment number 27.

    Martin from Belfast, I suspect your speculations are very close to the truth.
    There was very little point in only giving the girls one chance only, unless one had specifically not wanted to send a team.

    Everyone expected them to reach the target in one go, and it was likely bravado/ a self of self-importance that led Jones to create a story around the do-or-die moment. Maybe some would argue that certain people wanted to create more pressure and see them fail.

    The RG team undoubtedly heard him do this, but were self-confident in achieving the target anyway. Then when they failed, pride put Jones in a corner and the RG realised they'd need their second chance - a chance they should have fought for earlier than they did.
    The athletes were guilty of something - not requesting a clear-cut double chance when the policy was published in the first place: BG would have been very hard pressed in justifying a refusal to this request if it had been made in september.
    Those within BG who were working in the interest of the sport would have been in favor of the 3 days counting, and those who were more interested in asserting their personal authority and sounding important would have been in favor of the once-and-for-all opportunity. They hopefully would have been outnumbered.

    One thing is for sure: not sending the team would have caused, and has already caused, BG to lose all credibility in the international gymnastics community. Anyone following the sport realised to what extent the decision was non-sensical, hense the pretty unanimous support from the RG community around the world.

    There's been a lot of resentment from the non artistic disciplines towards BG all year. The BG facebook page is constantly littered with people involved with acro, trampoline and tumbling complaining that BG exclusively supports the artistic teams, to the detriment of the others.
    I suspect this is partly true: had we been dealing with the artistic team, BG would have most likely ensured the selection policy was a lenient as possible. It probably doesn't suit everyone to know that future resources are going to be shared with an increasingly legitimate RG team.

    While there's plenty of blame to share around, I do regret that the tone of the articles appears to be slightly resentful towards the athletes. Not that they are blameless, but there surely are not the most at fault.

    An honest, fair policy would have been to grant the full three days as an opportunity to qualify. The scoring in RG is so subjective and dependant on the day that giving one chance foolish and ignorant at best, malicious at worst.
    The motives or competence of those who wished and worked in that direction do need to be questioned.

    I can't help but wonder if the RG team failing to obtain a clear qualification policy was due to internal disagreements and hostility to start with....
    And while they made a good number of mistakes in their treatment of the case, I'm far more worried about the existence of people in positions of authority whose loyalties are divided.


    There are plenty of people to suggest, it seems, that certain people within BG are not keen to see an RG program develop. The acro and trampoline people are constantly complaining about resources being directed in priority towards artistic gymnastics, and it probably wouldn't have suited everyone if a rising RG team started making legitimate funding claims as well.

    Ollie, I

  • Comment number 28.

    It seems fairly clear that British Gymnastics have allowed themselves to look rather silly in order to correct a tactical error. I suspect that they set the girls a reasonable target which they were confident they would achieve. When they did not do so, and by such a small margin, they had backed themselves into a corner.

    I do remember Ollie's tweets on that day and he was pretty clear that it was the qualification mark that counted. No-one has lied, but the phrase "economical with the truth" springs to mind. Not that I am implying any type of deception.

  • Comment number 29.

    @27 Gillianjo

    I think Ollie is quite right to smell something muscine here, and equally correct about why we can't locate the source. I think we maybe disagree on the why's and wherefores - Ollie suspects incompetence, i suspect arrogance followed by some sleight of hand, but the result is the same.

    As to the Artistic guys being favoured, well, no surprise; higher profile sport, and genuine medal shots - in line with overall BOA 'ruthless' policy - I suspect your acrobatic and tumbling gymanasts share some gripes with Compound archers. 1m divers and other 'non-olympic' sports...

    But legacy also needs green shoots on previously barren ground; hence the Handball guys (whom I appalud), the fencing politics (which I find confusing) and the wrestling debacle (which worries me) - in my completely subjective view the RG girls are a great advertisement for their sport, and they now have their 'narrative'.

    @ollie

    Wildly out of context, has BBC ever given some consideration to the "World Games", or are they just too wild and woolly?

  • Comment number 30.

    Some really churlish stuff on here.

    Can't believe some people seem disappointed that these young ladies who along with their families give their time, heart & soul to their sport for no financial gain, have been given the chance to achieve the highlight of their sporting careers.

    Agree completely with 25/26, and despair the way that any fun is being squeezed out of the Olympic idyll.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ Martin - agree. Some good points there and right to mention that this picture is familiar from across the piece - every Governing Body is having to consider the balance of making tough decisions against the need to pick credible athletes who will capture the mood, deliver the medals, get the media time and take the opportunity to use London to secure the future of its sport.

  • Comment number 32.

    I would sack the penpushing jobsworths of British Gymnastics management, they don't have a clue - it's not about them and their "computer says no" mentality, but about the young gymnasts and the Olympic legacy of our British youth and British sport.

  • Comment number 33.

    @31 Quick_Single

    Britain has gone from 1 gold in 1996 to 19 in 2008 by this method - ruthless, scientific - it can't be gainsaid - but there is a clear tension with a broader sport for all mentality within that.

    The truth is, in our modern political word - continued funding has to be continually defended - and the best way to defend it is international success, with a compelling narrative. Can you imagine trying to slash rowing funding, and betraying the legacy of Resgrave and Pinsent - Can you imagine crushing cycling funding in the era of Hoy, Wiggins, Cavendish etc - all our sports (save self funders like football and tennis) crave that success, and the financial stability that comes with them. But that requires sacrifices, and seriously scientific ruthless dedication.

    And then along come these heart warming 'narrative heavy' RG girls with their little faces and their self funding, and maybe BG wasn't quite supple enough to evolve and attach itself to a different narrative.

    Look at Basketball and Luol Deng - we probably have a*** squared chance of winning a medal, but the profile of the sport is raised on the back of Deng's stardom and wonderful story; and so we move heaven and earth to get team GB in, even though they too were not really 'up to standard'.

    there's a fine balance to be maintained on the assymetric bars of statistic and narrative. BG ell off this time. Thank goodness for the mat (or safety net) provided by the appeal, no?

  • Comment number 34.

    Most athletes give their time, heart & soul to their sport for no financial gain. One of the huge problems with low-profile sports, women's in particular, is that being pretty, rich and/or connected gets you far further ahead than being skilled. This is why people who are not so pretty, rich and connected who have been trying their best for years, without lottery funding or even proper facilities (which don't really exist unless you have lottery funding or are in a sport with a professional competition), are steaming mad! There is no way on God's Green Earth that if I was 3 days away from Olympic Qualification that I would ignore the press and Twitter telling me that I needed to work harder on the first 2 days!

    One of the big problems of the London Olympics' attempts to make a difference in our sporting culture is that almost everyone thinks that most sport is for the "elites", and stuff like this just confirms it in their minds. Why bother try anything new if the pretty girl with the rich dad is going to end up winning everything, by getting all the decisions, anyway?

    The main reason many of us wanted the Olympics was to wind up the French anyway!

  • Comment number 35.

    British Gymnastics contended that they hadn't demonstrated that they were competitive enough to merit going to the Olympics. Which is ridiculous. Unlike artistic gymnastics, which has competitive teams and individuals from around the world (including Great Britain), rhythmic gymnastics is pretty much the domain of Russia and other former Soviet republics, such as Ukraine and Belarus. Russia has won every Olympic gold medal in RG since 2000 and almost all the world titles in that time period. As of late, there are almost no serious contenders from outside Europe and the former Soviet Union, but the sport is not in any danger of being stricken from the Olympics because Russia backs it to the hilt, and just like China and the USA (the three most powerful countries on Earth right now), whatever Russia and its allies want, Russia and its allies get, especially in sports. (But that's another story.) The British girls trained their butts off, and yet receive little to no financial support. They earned the right to compete at the Olympics. Will they contend for a medal? No, but if you eliminate everyone from the British Olympic team who cannot and should not contend for a medal in London, it wouldn't make those who are contenders any better. Even in a sport like rhythmic gymnastics, where politics plays a huge role and there is almost no room for countries that don't have the financial capital to improve, a British team would drum up interest in the sport. Who knows? Somewhere down the line, a British girl could win gold at the Olympics in the sport. It has to start somewhere.

  • Comment number 36.

    First off in Ollie's original article, I do remember him commenting on their confusion. I also expressed sympathy for the girls but the rules are the rules. Since then it's become apparent the document for qualification was pretty woolly and the appeal was granted on those grounds. Like Martin from Belfast I pretty much think his summing of event is what happened in some regard or another. I absolutely refuse to believe the media would know quite clearly what BG thought the qualification requirements were and the actual team wouldn't. The tears plus the insistence of tomorrow just doesn't add up unless they though there were grounds for appeal if they did compete well but knew their actual opportunity had passed.

    Ollie reading about the Wrestlers in a blog on that would be rather interesting, I know little about the situation myself only that from the sound of it it's worse than what is was when I last heard.

    Lastly someone mentioned Luol Deng and Basketball. To me he's a great symbol of the some kind of British ideal, Sudanese born, British raised and applys his trade in America. He's done a great job of spending the time and effort of making the British Basketball a competitive team. His efforts are on par of what would happen if Andy Murray turned up for the Davis Cup team in Tennis. Which begs me to ask the question why can someone just apply for passport and just play for the team? Never lived in this country in his life, didn't even have to qualify for residency period! I feel disappointed for the player who spent the effort getting GB qualified for the event and now will no longer play due to an NBA star getting passport just because his Mum's from here. At least the Cricketer's who do so can't actually just rock up and play for England immediately. Similar situation to Wrestling but nowhere near as dodgy. I say all this with burning hatred for Basketball as a sport but appreciate hard work and effort where it's put in.

  • Comment number 37.

    @ncurd

    Appreciate you're not a basketball fan (prefer Gridiron myself as it happens)! The thing about getting a passport because you're mum's from here - well, that's how Beth Tweddle and KeriAnne Payne did it - both South African born. Or wiggins from Belgium, Froome from Kenya, Cavendish from the Isle of Man (which is NOT in the UK)

    Also, as an Ulster born, I too have dual nationality by birthright. To be honest, the world is just a bit more complicated and grey than many people 'born and reared' want to think.

    I think of Ofili-Porter (or is it just Porter now). Clearly American born, and American raised, but with both Nigerian and British parentage. She's frankly good enough (4th in the world last year) to run for any of them. and she is, in a sense, wonderfully honest - no "I've always been a Brit really, deep down" nonsense - rather "I have a multinational heritage; I'm proud of it, and I'm proud to represent all parts of it - in this case, my needs (training support) and team gb needs (world class hurdling prospect) were a good match, it makes sense, and I'll proudly run for Britain while continuing to refuse to deny my multinational background - I'm still a yank, still british, still nigerian".

    Now, her predecessor as british record holder did not take well to losing her record to "a yank" - and i understand that. but I don't think we should bend to that sentiment. It's not a racial test after all. Is she entitled to the passport - without question - she is thus a dual citizen. and she qualifies. She will wear british colours, and GBR will get the medal credit if she wins - fair deal. After all, we mustn't fall into the trap of thinking Team GB medal success reflects on us personally - it really doesn't - we support them, not the other way round.

    One is reminded of the classic Wellsley (Duke of Wellington) answer to queries on his Irish birth... "being born in a stable does not make one a horse!"

    As to the wrestlers - Ms Stadnik married Leon Rattigan. I wonder if she had changed her name then to Yana, or better Still Anna, Rattigan, would the public have had more sympathy? Maybe it should be in the standard issue acclimatisation pack for all "plastic brits" - where appropriate, please change name to something anglo-saxon, or better still Yorkshir-ish - I bet the country would be up in arms to held Yannie Sidebottom!!

  • Comment number 38.

    #37 gridiron fan myself. I love most sport Basketball is just something I can't stick for some reason. Anyway love for the sport isn't something were talking about here.

    I accept that argument, although I would point out Tweddle was while born in South Africa moved to England at 18 years old. My argument isn't one of where your born and I've defended the ECB Cricket selection policies of numerous occasions. I also full support Luol Deng in his Britishness.

    I've also got no problem with 1st generation people still feeling part of their home country. It's all about the environment your brought up in. I do believe in residency period before you can compete for us but that's not why I'm disappointed in the Basketball affair.

    The British Basketball Team was formed in 2005 with main goal of reaching the Olympics. In 2006 Deng became a naturalised British citizen to play for the squad. All of which I have no issue with. He's put a great effort in promoting the Sport here and spending the time playing for the team.

    Byron Mullens is 3 years younger and has only just gained his passport to play for the squad in the Olympics. Why should he be picked over those who worked hard to get qualified as he's now decided he want to be British? The man is 23 (Deng was 20 when he declared). Sorry that just doesn't sit right with me and feel he can't just declare before a major championship without doing the hard years beforehand for the country.

    I accept he may feel British with his mother being from here but why didn't he feel British enough to play for us beforehand like Deng did?

  • Comment number 39.

    "Why should he be picked over those who worked hard to get qualified as he's now decided he want to be British?"

    Because he's eligible, and he's better. Because, as I implied, the Olympics is a test of his abilities, not his national purity. Frankly a common London Brit has no more connection to Luol Deng (less, his GB-ness is completely acquired rather than born), nor Archibold, nor Ben Gordon (Born in britain) than him - but he does 'represent' Britain, quite legitimately.

    And to be honest, he's far from a shoo in - GB is stocked in his position.

    Now there is a fierce debate to be had on psychology, sport and nationalism/tribalism - whether we should care that a competitor is from the same nation as ourselves (De Coubertain thought not), whether our caring should mean funding. All our sporting loyalties are complex, illogical and occasionally self-serving - that's kinda what makes them fun. Why should I care how Manchester United, Munster, Miami Dolphins perform? I don't live in any of those places(, my family link with Manchester exists but is tenuous), they are peopled with an international array of players who play for pay - and yet care I do - So The odd Porter, Mullens, or even Stadnik-Rattigan doesn't really bother me (not least because I can always pull for the Irish if they did! ;-))

    It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it...

  • Comment number 40.

    British Gymnastics broke the rules of benchmarking by setting this arbitrary single benchmark.
    Benchmarking is a continuous process, including reviewing and adapting. It is not a one-off measure of an indicator. However, BG took it upon themselves to create a fixed, arbitrary score that they insist the British Rhythmic Gymnastic Group had to pass, they did not succeeded in creating a series of measures as indicators to then be discussed and evaluated. They have referred to it as a “benchmark", but it is not a benchmark according to the terms of the technique of benchmarking as there is no process of evaluation. In effect the British Rhythmic Gymnastic Group were, at the time of their assessment at the qualifying days of the 2nd Olympic qualification test event, in competition with a fictitious team score that British Gymnastics had contrived, not a benchmark.

    British Gymnastics also broke the rules for the science of measurement. British Gymnastics asked its group gymnasts to hit a score of 45.223 at the test event, 82% of the top Worlds score last year. (The winning score: 55.15 multiplied by 0.82 which equals 45.223, their "benchmark" score.) However this is not rigorous scientifically, as this is the value for 82.000% not 82%. The rules of significant figures state:-

    http://nces.ed.gov/statprog/2002/glossary.asp#precision
    “STANDARD 5-3-4: In multiplying or dividing numbers using data from secondary sources, the resulting precision cannot be more precise than that of any of the component numbers. (For example, if 4.5 and 5.75 are rounded numbers, the product can be stated only as 26, with 4.5 having two significant digits and 5.75 having three.)

    Applying the rule of precision to the British Gymnastics’s calculation:-

    {4 significant figures 55.15} {2 significant figures 0.82} {2 significant figures}
    55.15 multiplied by 0.82 = 45
    Which gives the BG’s "benchmark" score to the correct precision to be 45. Any any score of 45 or above is a qualifying score. However, as the Rhythmic Gymnastic scoring system is done to 5 significant figures, this also means that there is a range of qualifying scores at 5 significant figures that are below 45 at 2 significant figures. Therefore the range 44.500 to 44.999 at 5 significant figures are in the qualifying range with the correct precision of the "benchmark" of 45 (at 2 significant figures). Therefore the qualifying score at 5 significant figures is 44.500 to give 82% of the top Worlds score of 55.15, not 45.223! The British Rhythmic Gymnastic Groups score of 44.950 achieved on Tuesday the 17th in the qualifying round (CI) was 82% of the top Worlds score last year, the “benchmark” was met and the British Rhythmic Gymnastic Group deserve to be at the finals of the Olympic Games in London in 2012. End of.

  • Comment number 41.

    Saturn 22

    i think your calculation works if you posit that the 'benchmark' was 82%. But I think that's a category error. The 'benchmark' was the mark itself, not the mark as ratio. The ratio was arbitrarily chosen to create a target mark, but at that point, the relevance of the 82% ended - it was simply the jump off point of the calculation.

    And i'm not sure you can hang the BG team on a contestable definition of Benchmarking as understood by degree level statistical levelling. It's normal everyday meaning - " a mark used to make a comparative measurement" would trump a specialist statistical definition in any legal case where neither party is either a statistician, or using the term in a specialist statistical construct.

    in other words, clever, but not right.

  • Comment number 42.

    Martin,

    I disagree, the British Gymnastics selection policy document states:
    “A benchmark score of 45.223, [82% of the winning group score extracted from CI at the
    1st Olympic qualification event will be the target score that a British Senior Group will
    need to achieve at the 2nd Olympic qualification, CI, 15th – 18th January 2012, [Tes
    Event]].”

    They will have decided upon a percentage of the score 82% (instead of 80% or 79% say) of the winning score (55.15) of the RG 31st Rhythmic Gymnastics World championships on 19 - 25 September 2011 in MONTPELLIER (FRA) and then derived the benchmark score to 5 significant figures for that percentage, to give the incorrect 45.223 .

    For benchmarking, I suspect they were seduced by the authority of the benchmarking procedure. If you do a google search for “benchmarking in sport” you will see how the technique has permeated into the mindset of the sports governing bodies. Selecting the best team score from the last World Championships to compare the British Rhythmic Gymnastic Group against (despite having a real live qualifying competition with real teams and the same judges to use at the 2nd Olympic qualification, CI, 15th – 18th January 2012) is indicative to me of British Gymnastics desire to exploit the authority of the benchmarking technique; irrespective of how sensible it was to do this.

 

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