Canoeing Ireland stands over ‘contentious’ selection

Ronan Foley selected ahead of Barry Watkins for European Games

 

The chief executive of Canoeing Ireland, Moira Aston, has admitted that the decision to choose 19 year-old Ronan Foley to represent Ireland in canoe sprint at the European Games in two weeks’ time was “very contentious”. Aston has also said the policy of choosing a development athlete could have been communicated better to those involved.

Aston said that the slot was one which came free and was offered to Canoeing Ireland through the Olympic Federation. Foley was chosen with no trial on the basis that he would gain experience as a development athlete - he had taken a silver medal as a junior in the marathon World Championships in 2018.

Barry Watkins (29), who has been Ireland’s best male sprint canoeist, was disappointed that he did not get a shot at K1 1,000 metre place. He says that selecting without a trial is a backwards step for canoeing. The men’s K1 1,000 metres is an Olympic event, but this boat cannot be qualified for Tokyo through the European Games.

Aston, who was appointed late last year, says that Foley’s selection was not a precedent for selection in the future.

“To be honest I’m not sure we did a great job of fully communicating what we were looking for when we were in the middle of the selection process,” she told The Irish Times.

Normally selection is performance based.

“You would always pick the person who is competing best, who is the fastest. They would have every right. But this was an unusual situation. Nobody qualified the boat. It was a free place we were given, basically, by the Olympic Federation.

“The decision, when the selection policy was written, was that there would be a number of items that would be considered, but one of them would be future potential. So, when you’ve got that in there, you’re not always looking at the fastest person. You’re looking at the trajectory of an athlete and where they might be in the future.”

The decision was made after wide consultation, Aston said. But it might have been made clearer to athletes what had been decided.

“It wasn’t highlighted as something different. What we should have done, is that we should have said: ‘this is part of the criteria’ as opposed to leaving it in the document.”

Aston said Canoeing Ireland might be slow to use these criteria again.

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