OCI withold Rio selection of three Irish marathon runners

Paul Pollock selected ahead of ex-Moldovan athlete Sergiu Ciobanu despite slower time

Paul Pollock’s place at the Rio Olympics is in doubt after the Olympic Council of Ireland withheld his selection. Photograph: Inpho

Paul Pollock’s place at the Rio Olympics is in doubt after the Olympic Council of Ireland withheld his selection. Photograph: Inpho

 

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has withheld the selection of the three men’s marathon qualifiers for Rio after the controversy which marred last week’s nomination by Athletics Ireland.

While the three Irish women’s marathon qualifiers were included among the further 16 athletes formally selected by the OCI this morning, the three men are conspicuous by their absence: it follows an appeal against the process which saw Belfast-based runner Paul Pollock nominated by Athletics Ireland ahead of former Moldovan athlete Sergiu Ciobanu, even though Ciobanu had run the faster qualifying time.

An independent body of Athletics Ireland rejected Ciobanu’s appeal last Friday, although it now appears that might not be the end of the matter. He still has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and in the meantime a petition calling for Athletics Ireland to reconsider their three-man selection will be delivered to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross, OCI president Pat Hickey, and Georgina Drumm, President of Athletics Ireland.

According to a statement from Athletics Ireland, “the task of the Independent Appeals Committee was to determine whether there was an error of fact or a procedural deficit when the selectors came to their original decision; none was found.”

Against that backdrop, however, came Ciobanu’s claim that his previous nationality came into play, that he “felt like the fact I was born in Moldova is what cost me my place” and that “I feel like if I was born in Ireland, in the sticks, I would have been selected.”

Athletics Ireland also rejected that suggestion, and have stuck firmly behind their three-man selection of Kevin Seaward, who was always the fastest qualifier with his 2:14:52 from Berlin last September, followed by Mick Clohisey (who ran 2:15:10 in Seville in February), and then Pollock, even though Ciobanu was the third fastest qualifier, his 2:15:14 run in Berlin last September, 24 seconds faster than Pollock’s best of 2:15:38, also in Berlin.

No such worries for the three Irish women’s marathon qualifiers - Lizzie Lee, Fionnuala McCormack and Breege Connolly now officially selected by the OCI, along with 50km race walkers Robert Heffernan, Brendan Boyce, and Alex Wright.

Joining those six athletes in this morning’s announcement is boxer Katie Taylor, who secured her qualification for Rio at last week’s World Championships in Astana, plus rower Sanita Puspure in the women’s singles sculls, triathletes Aileen Reid and Bryan Keane, and six sailors in four boat classes, including three first-time Olympians in Saskia Tidey, Andrea Brewster and Finn Lynch.

Puspure secured her place in Rio with a confident second place at the Olympic Qualifying Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland last month, with both Reid and Keane qualifying through the lengthy world-ranking points system.

“We are formally selecting 16 more athletes from four sports,” said OCI Chief Executive Stephen Martin, “and we will continue to work with their national federation high performance support teams, and the Institute of Sport to ensure they have the best possible support to maximise their potential in Rio.”

Last month, the OCI announced their initial selection of 14 athletes, from boxing, gymnastics, rowing and badminton: with the men’s hockey team already qualified, it’s expected the final Irish team will feature 14 sports and approximately 85 athletes.

Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) 2016 Rio selections to date:

Athletics Ireland

Robert Heffernan - 50km Men’s Race Walk

Brendan Boyce - 50Km Men’s Race Walk

Alex Wright - 50Km Men’s Race Walk

Lizzie Lee - Women’s Marathon

Fionnuala McCormack - Women’s Marathon

Breege Connolly - Women’s Marathon

Irish Athletic Boxing Association

Katie Taylor - Women’s 60Kg

Michael Conlon - Men’s Bantam Weight

Paddy Barnes - Men’s Light Flyweight

Joe Ward - Men’s Light Heavyweight

Stephen Donnelly - Men’s Welter Weight

Brendan Irvine - Men’s Flyweight

David Oliver Joyce - Men’s Lightweight

Rowing Ireland

Sanita Puspure - Women’s Single Scull

Sinead Lynch - Lightweight Women’s Double Scull

Claire Lambe - Lightweight Women’s Double Scull

Paul O’Donovan - Lightweight Men’s Double Scull

Gary O’Donovan - Lightweight Men’s Double Scull

Sailing Ireland

Annalise Murphy - Laser Radial

Finn Lynch - Laser

Ryan Seaton - 49er

Matt McGovern - 49er

Andrea Brewster - 49erFX

Saskia Tidey - 49erFX

Triathlon Ireland

Aileen Reid - Women’s Triathlon

Bryan Keane - Men’s Triathlon

Badminton Ireland

Scott Evans - Men’s Singles

Chloe Magee - Women’s Singles

Gymnastics Ireland

Kieran Behan - Artistic Gymnastics All Around

Ellis O’Reilly - Artistic Gymnastics All Around

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