Johannesburg – The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) on Thursday defended its decision not to send skier Sive Speelman to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“This decision was made after recommendation from the High Performance Advisory Committee, which also includes the Chair of the Athlete's Commission, who is elected specifically to ensure that the athlete's rights and needs are protected,” Sascoc said in a statement.
The Sascoc board unanimously endorsed the recommendation received from the advisory committee, it said.
After reported criticism for its stance, Sascoc said it took into account the FIS (International Ski Federation) qualification system where the A standard qualification related to athletes ranked in the top 500, while the B standard was left to the discretion of the national Olympic bodies.
Speelman narrowly missed the minimum qualification of 140 in the Olympic FIS points list, having achieved 140,126. He is currently ranked 2290th in the world.
“After due consideration and taking into account all the facts relating to the matter, Sascoc as the National Olympic Committee, unfortunately will not be delivering him to the Winter Olympic Games, Sochi 2014.
“Sascoc will continue to adhere to its selection policies in order to ensure participation at the various multi-coded sports events is of the highest quality.”
Aged 16 at the time, Speelman finished 35th at the grand slalom event in the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2012.
South Africa sent two athletes to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Peter Scott failed to finish his only event in the first round of the men's giant slalom and Oliver Krass did not advance past the qualifying round of the men's cross-country sprint.
The highest placed South African skier at a winter games was Alexander Heath who, in 1998, finished 26th in the men's slalom at the Nagano Games in Japan.
The Sochi Winter Olympics will run from February 6 to 23. – Sapa