NZOC now in firing line for shooting selection

CONTROVERSY: Ryan Taylor of New Zealand competes in the Men's 50m Rifle Prone Shooting qualification.
CONTROVERSY: Ryan Taylor of New Zealand competes in the Men's 50m Rifle Prone Shooting qualification.

The controversy over the selection of New Zealand's sole Olympic Games shooting representative at London has reignited.

Any hopes the New Zealand Olympic Committee had that the saga was over were dashed moments after Ryan Taylor was eliminated from his shooting event at the London Games on Friday night. Immediately after finishing 25th out of 50 in his specialist event, the 50m men's prone rifle, Taylor revealed he would seek compensation for the legal costs he incurred in securing his spot, after initially being left out.

The Horowhenua shooter claimed New Zealand Shooting Federation officials botched his submission for selection, supplying lower international competition scores to the NZOC than he actually achieved, forcing him into a costly appeal process. The NZOC left him out of its London team based on its contention his scores showed he was not up to Olympic and world top-16 standard.

But after Taylor appealed that at least one score had not been taken into account, the NZOC changed its mind, supported his appeal to the Sports Tribunal and selected him for London at the expense of Timaru's Natalie Rooney, who had been awarded New Zealand's only shooting spot.

Taylor hit out at federation employee and clay target shooting coach Gavin Paton, who also coaches Rooney, saying he left out certain scores from the information sent to the NZOC.

"My scores were put into the NZOC and they were all incorrect," he said. "That's when I got turned down. Natalie's name got put forward and she was accepted before we even knew what was happening. We were both put in a really awkward situation. It should never have happened. It's been disappointing the way things happened. I'm glad the right decision was made, and I'm happy the NZOC backed me and supported me.”

Taylor said he had spent $8000 in legal fees to fight for his right to compete in London, and wanted that money back from the shooting federation.

Its officials told the Sunday Star-Times last night they would listen to Taylor's case, but said the blame for the debacle rested with the NZOC.

Federation president David Tomlinson said Paton was being made a "scapegoat". “It is not unexpected that Taylor would seek compensation. If he places a request in front of us, we will consider it," Tomlinson said.

“But the NZOC has been very unfair on Paton. There was one score that was not submitted. That score, in isolation, did not significantly alter Taylor's world ranking. It is my belief that those scores were reviewed by the executives before Paton submitted them. Even Taylor's father (a federation board member), when he looked at a spreadsheet of scores, could not immediately identify the error."

Tomlinson said he had warned the NZOC that "this will potentially become an employment matter if the suggestion that one, insignificant, error by a paid employee of the federation created the problem".

“No-one from the shooting federation sees it that way," he said.

“The NZOC, as part of its litigation process, say they went back and investigated extra information, none of which was even remotely related to these scores."

Tomlinson said the entire saga could have been avoided had the NZOC followed the federation's recommendation that both Taylor and Rooney be selected.

“Before the Olympics we toed the line carefully with the NZOC because we didn't want to disadvantage anybody. But it is very likely that after our (board) meetings in September, we will make public statements.

“The NZOC's public press release indicated its decision was based around one incorrect score. That was only a small factor and, indeed, the only way that score was found out to be incorrect was when it was investigating other options."

Paton told the Star-Times he supplied the incorrect scores by mistake.

“I was the one who supplied all the submissions. I'm not going to get into a debate about the logistics of it. That will come out in time I suspect," he said.

“I do coach Rooney, but I am the national coach for all our clay target shooters.

"Yes, there was a very minor mistake made, and if everybody saw what it was, they would understand. It was definitely not something that was done intentionally. It was quite minor. Everybody can make small mistakes.

“I've done my job right. People are blowing things out of proportion. We supported Taylor right the way through. It was the NZOC that turned him down, not us. In an ideal world both shooters would have gone."

NZOC secretary general Kereyn Smith said from London that she was confident her organisation had handled the selection issue soundly.

Sunday Star Times