The New Zealand Olympic Committee says it is not responsible for a selection process bungle that "miscommunicated" qualifying standards to 2012 Games hopefuls.
The mistake meant committee officials last weekend omitted Commonwealth Games decathlon silver medallist Brent Newdick and world shot put prodigy Jacko Gill from the track and field team for London.
Only four athletes were named. Newdick and Gill were listed in a holding group and may have to wait as late as 19 days before the Games start before finding out whether they have earned selection.
The Sunday Star-Times can reveal that last year, New Zealand's track and field athletes were given only one qualification standard to meet to secure selection for London.
Newdick, runner-up in the decathlon at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, and junior world champion Gill, met the standard stipulated in the selection criteria document, and planned their seasons believing they had already secured their Olympic places.
But as recently as three weeks ago athletes were informed of another, higher, "A" standard in each event, a mark necessary to guarantee nomination.
Unbeknown to Newdick and Gill, they had reached only the "B" standard.
That means other athletes can contend for nomination by reaching the same "B" standard – since only one athlete per event, per country, is eligible for selection in these events.
Scott Goodman, who inherited the situation after being appointed Athletics NZ high performance director less than a year ago, admitted the 2012 Olympic policy had been miscommunicated.
"The original documents only detailed an initial standard, not A and B," Goodman told the Star-Times.
"I started to look at it carefully around January and noticed there was an issue. I met with [convener of selectors] Graham O'Brien to say the selectors needed to have a good look at it, and decide how to handle it.
"There's a possibility for athletes to say they haven't been fairly dealt with. It's not ideal and needs clarifying. I can understand why some athletes are disappointed."
He said the policy had been approved by Athletics NZ and the NZ Olympic Committee board. "In that case it's a joint responsibility."
But Olympic Committee secretary-general Kereyn Smith distanced her organisation from responsibility. "The sport develops its standard, then submits it to us. Provided the rationale stacks up, it's approved," she said.
"There has been no amendment, or redrafting, of that document. But mis-communication is a different thing. How they communicate it to the athlete is a matter for the sport. We don't deal with athletes in that context.
"The NZOC's role in this is to respond to nominations put forward by national sports organisations. I'm aware they [Newdick and Gill] have not yet been nominated for selection because they are not currently A standard athletes. It's a matter for Athletics NZ. It only becomes a matter for us if a selection issue emerges, and at the moment it's a nomination issue."
Newdick said he learned about the situation only a few weeks ago and was disappointed to remain outside the Olympic team.
"Athletics NZ contacted me two or three weeks ago to say I wouldn't be named yet," Newdick told the Star-Times.
"The Olympic Committee contacted me on the Friday [before last Sunday's announcement] to make me aware it wasn't going to select me, but I'd be notified as a qualified athlete.
"A qualifying standard was set relative to someone being good enough to be sent to London and challenging for a good result. There was nothing highlighted about A and B standards.
"I'm disappointed, but understand why they've had to do this. It just wasn't what was declared when the policy was first released."
Yesterday Gill also said he, too, was disappointed.
He said the news he had not yet qualified meant he would change his focus to the world junior track and field championships just before the Olympics.
Newdick and Gill must now wait until the qualification period ends on July 8 – just 19 days before the opening ceremony – to find out if they will be going to London.
This is something Goodman suggests needs addressing. "That's fairly late in the cycle to have athletes prepared and organised."
- © Fairfax NZ News