Home' The Wellingtonian : July 12th 2012 Contents 19
THE WELLINGTONIAN, JULY 12, 2012
Olympic selection a thorny issue
Marathon effort: Liza Hunter-Galvan rests after finishing the 2008 Olympic marathon in Beijing.
The 11th-hour decision to
replace Natalie Rooney
with Ryan Taylor in the
New Zealand shooting squad for
the London Olympics continues a
run of selection controversies that
stretches back nearly a century.
Target shooter Taylor was omit-
ted from the New Zealand team in
favour of women s trap specialist
Rooney, but the decision was
reversed last week after Taylor s
appeal to the Sports Tribunal of
It seems odd that they can t
both be sent to London, but New
Zealand has a quota for its Olym-
pic shooting contingent, so it had
to be one or the other.
The Taylor-Rooney drama is the
latest of many New Zealand
Olympic selection debates. Among
the most celebrated:
1928: Champion distance runner
Billy Savidan was not sent to
Amsterdam despite being the
national one-mile, three-mile and
cross-country champion. Four
years later, in Los Angeles,
Savidan finished fourth in the
Olympic 5000m and 10,000m.
He once told me his big regret
was not going in 1928, when he
was at his peak.
1956, 60 and 64: Roy Williams,
New Zealand s first great decath-
lete, was three times overlooked
for Olympic selection. He was
among the world s top 10 in 1956
and 60, and his omission was
In 1964, just to be sure, he
headed to the University of South-
ern California, for top-class com-
petition. His performances kept
improving, but the selectors ruled
that because he d done them over-
seas, they wouldn t be considered.
Williams won the decathlon
gold medal at the 1966 Empire
Games, but never did get a crack
at the Olympics.
1960: Marise Chamberlain set
world best times in the 400m and
mile, but was overlooked for the
800m event in Rome. Ironically, a
relatively unknown male 800m
runner, Peter Snell, was sent that
year and did rather well.
Chamberlain did get to the 1984
Olympics, where she won a bronze
1968: Long jumper Bob Thomas
set a national record of 8.05m in
January 1968, a mark that still
stands 44 years later. His leap
would still have won an Olympic
medal in 1976.
Yet in 1968 the selectors sent
another long jumper, Dave Norris,
and left Thomas at home.
1976: Euan Robertson was not
chosen for the steeplechase, so he
toured Europe with running
greats John Walker, Dick Quax
and Rod Dixon.
Robertson kept breaking his
New Zealand record, and kept
being overlooked. Finally, a
month before the games, he
reduced his time to a sensational
8min 22.8s and simply had to be
Though he was nearly run rag-
ged trying to earn selection, he
still finished sixth in Montreal.
Not bad for a reject, said his
coach, Arch Jelley.
Olympic selector and team
manager Bill Holley later told me
the selectors hardline attitude
was the reason Robertson had
done so well in Montreal!
1980: A 99-strong team was
chosen for the 1980 Moscow
games. Eventually only four com-
peted -- three canoeists and a mod-
ern pentathlete -- after American
president Jimmy Carter called for
a boycott and some Western
countries supported him.
Carter, who had an election
looming, decided the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan was
reason enough for a boycott.
The New Zealand Government
put tremendous pressure on indi-
vidual sports to withdraw and
they crumbled. Nearly 50 of the
original team never did become
2004: Hamish Pepper (laser),
Andrew Brown and Jamie Hunt
(470) were chosen in the yachting
squad, but their selection was
fraught with problems.
Andrew Murdoch felt he should
have got Pepper s spot and Simon
Cooke and Alistair Gair felt they
should be the 470 selections. They
all appealed to the Sports Tri-
bunal, which agreed.
The matter was then referred to
the International Court of Arbi-
tration for Sport, which reversed
that ruling, and the original
2008: Liza Hunter-Galvan, who
had run 51st in the 2004 Olympic
marathon, missed selection in
2008. She appealed to the Sports
Tribunal and had the decision
overturned. In Beijing she fin-
The following year she returned
a positive test for banned
performance-enhancing drugs and
was suspended for two years.
Artificial pitches a boon for sport
The new artificial fields are having a
positive impact on winter sports, with
fewer cancelled games.
There are artificial fields at Nairnville
Park in Khandallah, Te Whaea in
Newtown, Wakefield Park in Island Bay
and Wellington College.
Wellington City Council plans to install
new artificial fields at St Patrick s Col-
lege in Kilbirnie, due to open in April
2013, and Alex Moore Park in Johnson-
ville, due to open in April 2014.
Wellington Rugby Football Union s
Will Caccia-Birch said the artificial fields
had provided certainty in delivering
games, with 32 games of senior and jun-
ior rugby played on one field in just three
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