Great Britain captain Rachel Smith vowed her rhythmic gymnastics team will prove they deserve a place at the London Olympics after winning an appeal against their own governing body.
British Gymnastics ruled the team had missed an agreed qualifying standard at the Olympic test event at North Greenwich arena in January but the athletes appealed and independent arbitrator Sports Resolutions UK overturned the decision following a hearing last Wednesday. The British Olympic Association will now inform gymnastics' world governing body, the FIG, that Britain will be taking up the host nation place.
"We are all really happy with the result. It's been a bit of a tough journey but we're so happy that it's gone in our favour," said Smith, who later added: "Now we can really focus on training. We've just come back from Sweden where this weekend we won the Nordic Championships with one of our highest scores. We want to prove to everyone that we do deserve to be there and to make the country proud."
British Gymnastics set a benchmark score of 45.223, which they intended to be achieved in the qualifying stage of the event, in order to replicate the stresses and pressure of Olympic competition. The British team fell short by 0.273 points after errors with the hoop and a knot in a ribbon caused problems in their second routine, but they believed they had another chance on the final day of the test event.
Despite British Gymnastics having already ruled they had missed their chance, the team went out and scored 47.200 and appealed the decision on the basis they believed they had met the target laid down for them.
The British team were only competing against a set standard rather than against other nations, and sports arbitrator Graeme Mews, in explaining his decision, felt this and the confusion in the wording of the policy were the key factors.
British Gymnastics denied they misinformed the gymnasts but accepted the appeal judgment.
Chief executive officer Jane Allen said: "British Gymnastics respects the rights of its athletes to appeal selection procedure. We were confident that we had put in place a transparent, fair and equitable selection policy and associated qualifying score to allow a rhythmic group to self-determine their nomination to the BOA and subsequent participation in the London 2012 Olympic Games.
"The selection policy and its associated procedures have been thoroughly examined by an independent arbitrator and we accept his ruling."
British Gymnastics also pointed out the arbitrator said: "BG's decision not to nominate the GB Group was doubtless a hard one to make, but it was a decision made in good faith and in the belief that it was correct."
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