Emma Snowsill's Olympic Triathlon Appeal Dismissed - Is it Fair?

The three-times world champion, Emma Snowsill who won gold in Beijing by more than a minute, missed out on the team for London with Beijing bronze medallist Emma Moffatt, Emma Jackson and Erin Densham selected instead. 

Snowsill has had her plea for inclusion in this year's Australian Olympic team dismissed. The appeal, on largely technical grounds, was heard on Monday by an independent Olympic Appeals Tribunal in Melbourne

The three-member Tribunal heard grounds from Snowsill’s legal counsel who called the former and current chairs of the Triathlon Australia Elite Selection Committee (TAESC) Michelle Gallen and Anthony Beven as witnesses. But after careful consideration of the written and oral submissions the Tribunal chaired by David Grace QC and including solicitor Paul Hayes and former elite triathlete Melissa Ashton-Garard, dismissed all grounds of appeal. Snowsill was represented by solicitor Paul Horvarth.

In summing up, Mr Grace recognised the difficulty of the selection decision and acknowledged that given the closeness between three athletes vying for two places on the Australia Olympic triathlon team, there was always going to be one exceptional athlete disappointed in the outcome.

Snowsill said she will not pursue the matter with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). She stressed the appeal was 'never a criticism' of the other athletes' abilities but was about the selection process.

Despite her disappointment, you can't fault the class and graciousness with which Emma Snowsill has responded to the huge blow of not being able to defend her gold medal.

The grounds of appeal relied upon by Snowsill's legal team were that:

- The applicable nomination criteria had not been properly followed and / or implemented.

- That Emma Snowsill had not been afforded a reasonable opportunity by TA to satisfy the applicable nomination criteria.

- That the nomination decision was affected by actual bias by the selection committee.

Back in July last year after the 'three Emma's' (Moffatt, Jackson, Snowsill respectively) took the top three spots in the ITU World Championship Series Hamburg, most would have predicted that the trio would make up the 2012 Australian team.

But, the selected Australian team is 2009/2010 World Champion Emma Moffatt, Mooloolaba / Sydney 2012 winner Erin Densham and Emma Jackson the 2010 World Under-23 Champion.

Emma Moffatt was pre-selected for the team last year while Erin Densham's exceptional form this year demanded her inclusion when selectors met last week.

Snowsill has said she'll take every avenue possible to get to her second Olympics after losing out to fellow Queenslander Emma Jackson for the final spot in Australia's three-woman team.

When confirming her appeal on her own website last week, Snowsill gave a subtle pointer to her tactics by directing 'those who are interested' to a link to TA's selection policy and she wrote: 'I recognise that my decision affects people other than myself and I'm sorry for any hurt that my actions might cause, but I feel it is a matter of importance that I take all avenues available to me to achieve my dream of competing at a second Olympic Games'.
The policy includes such criteria as an ability to win and achieve podium finishes in world championship series races in the past three years, history of major championships results and current form.

Since winning the gold medal in Beijing in 2008, Snowsill has been restricted by glandular fever and a hip injury. A virus picked up last March affected her form in 2011, while Jackson had a stunning year, finishing fourth in the world championship series. She has beaten Snowsill in four of their past five races but has been unable to sustain her form this year.

In the past three years, Snowsill has won three world championship series races, while Jackson has not won any. Snowsill has won five medals and Jackson one. With an Olympic gold medal, a Commonwealth Games title and three world championships, Snowsill has also shown she can perform in major races.

What others well-known triathletes said? 

Loretta Harrop, who won silver at the Athens Games in 2004, said Snowsill should have been the first athlete picked, with form dictating the remaining spots. New Zealand's 2008 world champion and dual Olympian Sam Warriner said she was stunned at Snowsill's omission. Chris McCormack, who missed selection in Australia's men's team for London, says Snowsill is the greatest female International Triathlon Union triathlete of all time and should be in the team. McCormack said: 'She's the only one capable of beating Britain's gold medal favourite Helen Jenkins in London. Athletes like Emma, who have been injured, and who have shown results in the past in that selection period and are showing improvement and are your biggest chance to win a medal, discretion is exercised to put those people on the team. It's mind-boggling to me that she's not on the team.'

From her website statement:

I wish to announce that my appeal to the Triathlon Australia Appeals Tribunal has been dismissed.
Whilst I am upset with the outcome, I have to respect the decision of the Tribunal and will not be pursuing the matter further. I would like to stress that my appeal never involved a merits review of any of the athletes involved, nor the selection committee’s decision. It instead went to matters concerning the selection process, however the Tribunal was satisfied that there was no legal error to be found in the evidence before it.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kind words and support. It has been a difficult time and one I am glad to have resolved. To that end, I would like to again apologise to those affected by my appeal and to thank the other athletes for their discretion in the matter. My appeal was never a criticism of their abilities and I sincerely wish them all the best for their preparations and performances in London.

Thank you again to everyone for your interest and support. I will have more to say in the coming days!

Emma Snowsill

Last comment:

This discretionary clause in sports is constantly bringing sport into disrepute and it's the sporting body that is doing it.

Is this just points out the issue with Triathlon Australia's selection policy?

Maybe they should have it in black and white like Swimming? Highest ranking athletes in two or three races and no discretion.

Or should be the team picked on current form at the end of the day?

All these girls get up and race many times during a season. If Snowsill was the best, she would have qualified, subject to injury. Four years ago when Snowsill won Olympic gold, she was invincible throughout the year.

Opinion: Emma Snowsill Deserves To Go To The Olympics
Timothy Carlson: Snowsill's Olympic appeal denied



Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Phil Gibbs (Saturday, 11 August 2012 16:28)

    We had an interesting situation in kayaking where we had 2 medal contenders and one spot. They agreed that the selected athlete would be the one that won a best of 3 trial. Whilst disappointed with the outcome the loser was able to accept that fairness had ensued. In US Track and Field the first 3 in the National Trials take the spots - end of. This does however lead to some outstanding athletes (even potential gold medal winners) not making the team. What is important is to have very precisely drawn criteria agreed well in advance, with appropriately impartial selectors and proper procedures to ensure that all relevant considerations are taken account of. There will always be as degree of subjectivity (unless US method followed)and winners and losers, but that's life.