Clark Ellice's frosty relationship with Triathlon New Zealand is set to continue after he was left out of its 14-strong high performance squad.
Less than a week after putting in a meritorious effort for third in the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Auckland, Ellice, 30, was not only snubbed for the "podium" category of Triathlon NZ's high performance programme, but was also not considered good enough for the development section.
Just three athletes - Andrea Hewitt, Kate McIlroy and Ryan Sissons - made the cut for the "podium" category, with the remaining triathletes in the development squad. His axing means Ellice will miss out on annual funding of $30,000 and a chance to participate in the squad's training base in the south of France.
"I'm not really surprised," he said yesterday. "I had to finish in the top 20 overall in the world series last year and because I ended up 30th, there is obviously no room for me in their criteria [for funding] or whatever squads they are trying to develop." Ellice knew the fact he chose to race in the American 5150 circuit instead of some ITU events at the back end of last year would hurt his chances of funding but he maintained he had little choice.
"After I was cut off after being Olympic reserve in July I had to look at how I was going to fund the rest of my season and the obvious and easiest move was to go to [the 5150 series event in] Des Moines. That didn't allow me the chance of getting any top 10 world series finishes but I needed some way of getting home because you can't do that without money."
Ellice's eighth-placed finish at Des Moines earned him $25,000, as well as a bike and wheel sponsor.
"I guess to just be completely cut off without any negotiation about even the chance of being able to be supported at their French base, that's what is disappointing," he said. "I still finished the [ITU] series 30th in the world, I'm the No 2 ranked Kiwi and they don't even consider talking to you about a mentoring role or helping the younger athletes. I'm not after loads of money but to be offered nothing . . . it's like, really?"
It's not the first time Ellice has found himself on the outer with Triathlon NZ.
Three years ago he was stood down from the national squad for six months for what was described as aggressive email and Facebook postings.
Triathlon NZ high performance manager Graeme Maw said a review of the criteria for selection highlighted the way forward for the organisation, which included higher world class standards and the use of an evidence-based selection process.
"The focus is very much on medal potential in 2016 and 2020," he said, "meaning we must support those athletes progressing towards the podium, and we must ensure development athletes track quickly along the athlete pathway."
Despite his latest setback, Ellice remained determined to make next year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
"I'm not giving up," he said. "The two selection races will be in London and Auckland next year. While I will target London, it's a runner's course and the way that I race, being a strength-based athlete, Auckland will be a realistic option to get an automatic spot."
Ellice wasn't the only notable omission, with Nicky Samuels, who was 35th at the Olympics, also missing out on the high performance squad.
- © Fairfax NZ News