Qualifying rules watertight

KEVIN TUTTY
Last updated 05:00 12/05/2012

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Christchurch swimmer Sophia Batchelor will have to decline an invitation to swim at the London Olympics if she receives one from Fina, the sport's international body.

Batchelor, 16, who missed the Swimming New Zealand qualifying time for London by 0.01sec (about a centimetre) in the 100m butterfly at the New Zealand trials will not be able to accept the invitation because she has not swum the SNZ time.

SNZ will not deviate from its selection policy for Batchelor or any other swimmer who might receive a Fina invitation.

If Fina does not fill its quota of 900 swimmers for the Games through its own qualification criteria, it will invite the next highest ranked swimmers in each event to fill the vacant spots.

Those invitations will be issued this month.

But Mike Byrne, the chief executive of SNZ said this week that any swimmers receiving invitations would not be nominated to the New Zealand Olympic Committee for inclusion in the team.

"Unfortunately Sophia didn't meet our selection criteria that was agreed with the New Zealand Olympic Committee," said Byrne.

"As tough as that is Sophia would not be selected," she said.

"It's a terrible situation. We feel so much empathy for the swimmers, but our selectors have produced a very objective criteria and if we make an exception for one person then where do we stop?

"We made a deliberate decision to be black and white with our criteria, and to maintain its integrity to the letter of the law," said Byrne.

SNZ relaxed part of its qualifying criteria for London. In past Olympics swimmers could swim qualifying times only in finals at the national trials but this year SNZ gave competitors two chances to swim the times – in the heats and finals.

The NZOC also has qualifying criteria which states that an athlete must have a reasonable chance of finishing in the top 16 at the Olympics and anyone receiving an invitation would have not have reached its standards said Kereyn Smith, the chief executive of the NZOC.

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- The Press

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