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Olympic snub of young mountain bike star overruled by Sports Tribunal

Publish Date
Tue, 9 Jul 2024, 1:37pm

Olympic snub of young mountain bike star overruled by Sports Tribunal

Publish Date
Tue, 9 Jul 2024, 1:37pm

By Dana Johannsen of RNZ

The Sports Tribunal has taken the extraordinary step of putting an athlete forward for Olympic selection after upholding the appeal of young mountain bike star Sammie Maxwell.

In a ruling published on Friday, the tribunal effectively took the decision out of Cycling NZ’s hands, invoking a seldom-used clause to “conclusively determine” the issue of Maxwell’s nomination for Olympic selection.

“Having assessed the evidence and oral submissions of all parties, the tribunal is satisfied there were shortcomings in the nomination process such as to justify the allowing of the appeal,” the decision read.

The tribunal ruled Maxwell will be nominated for selection to the New Zealand Olympic team, because it would be “impracticable to refer the question of nomination back to [Cycling NZ]” due to the time crunch in which officials are operating under.

Following the intervention from the tribunal, the final call on whether Maxwell will make the startline in Paris rests with the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) selectors.

A spokesperson for the NZOC said the selectors were waiting for the tribunal to release the full reasons for its decision before it can assess Maxwell’s case for selection.

The deadline for entries to the Olympic Games passed on Tuesday morning NZT, but it is understood extensions can be granted in situations such as this. The NZOC is not expected to publicly announce the mountain biking team for Paris until later this week.

The tribunal is yet to publish the full reasons for its decision, but a source within cycling told RNZ the case is “incredibly complex” and one officials within High Performance Sport NZ have been watching closely.

The tribunal decision indicated Maxwell appealed on four grounds:

  • - That Cycling NZ had failed to properly implement its criteria
  • - That Maxwell was not afforded a reasonable opportunity to satisfy the nomination criteria
  • - The nomination decision was affected by bias
  • - There was no material on which the nomination decision could reasonably be based

It is not known on which of these grounds her appeal succeeded.

It is understood Cycling NZ’s decision not to nominate Maxwell was not due to performance reasons.

Maxwell is regarded as one of the sport’s most exciting young talents after winning the under-23 cross country world championships last year, and finishing third on the World Cup circuit.

But the 22 year-old, who is known for her dance celebrations on the finish line, has had a disrupted season after withdrawing from the early rounds of the World Cup circuit in Brazil, telling organisers: “I have some things to get right in my brain.”

In a candid interview with TVNZ’s Breakfast last month Maxwell said she had battled an eating disorder when she was younger and she was “still working through some eating disorder issues”.

“I think a lot of it’s based around a really old cycling culture of power-to-weight, and the sport’s built off suffering right?” Maxwell said.

“So you think you’ve got to suffer all the time if you want to be the best in the sport. I’ve kind of - over the last few years - learnt that I am my best truly when I’m surrounded by people that are reminding me that it’s not the suffering off the bike. You’ve got to suffer on the bike.

“I’ve learned to be really kind to my body. Even now, I’m still working through some eating disorder challenges, I’ve taken the first half of this season off. I’m in a really supportive environment at the moment, I’m already seeing some big changes to my sustainability in my career.”

Maxwell returned to the World Cup circuit with her Decathlon Ford racing team last month and has produced some strong results, including a top 10 finish in France.


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