Samantha Michael 2nd from left with Fellow X-TECH WHEELZ Timaru cub skaters
Skater wins NZ selection battle
STU PIDDINGTON/The Timaru Herald
BATTLE WON: Samantha Michael has made the New Zealand speed skating team.
Timaru-based speedskater Samantha Michael has won a battle not many succeed at – she forced her national governing body to overturn her non-selection for a world championships.
The 19-year-old Michael had hoped to be selected for the New Zealand junior women’s team to compete in South Korea but missed out.
She then took her case to the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand, which allowed an appeal against a decision of the New Zealand Federation of Roller Sports not to select her and recommended the national body take another look.
Roller Sports had acknowledged Michael as the best junior female speed skater in the country but considered she was not able to meet the selection criteria in terms of a top 10 placing.
When Michael inquired about her non-selection, she was told the selectors considered she had not realised her potential since the 2007 world championships and in their opinion she had a fitness problem.
Michael was ninth in 2007, which was the only top 10 result for a New Zealand junior skater in the last five years, and has since had a number of injuries.
In 2008, she fell and broke her wrist and collarbone which took her out of the sport until 2009, when she achieved two top 20 placings. She decided not to participate in 2010 to allow full recovery and to return her fitness and confidence to 2007 levels.
In January 2011 she moved to Timaru to start intensive training, including fitness training, under internationally regarded coach Bill Begg as well as training with former senior world champion Nicole Begg.
Michael appealed her non-selection on a number of grounds, most of which the tribunal dismissed. It emphasised it was concerned primarily with process, not the merits of the selection decision, but upheld her appeal on process grounds that selection criteria were not properly followed or implemented in relation to determining her prospects of a top 10 finish.
It was also noted that the selectors had not properly brought to account Michael’s potential at international level when she moves to the senior ranks.
The tribunal also considered selectors had not assessed her fitness on the evidence available in relation to world championship prospects, particularly in light of her recent training. It referred the matter back to Roller Sports for reconsideration in accordance with the selection criteria and expressly recorded it was not a direction to select.
Michael said she was then initially again told no, but with the likelihood of further litigation, that decision was eventually changed to a yes.
Speed Sports committee chairman Gary Clark declined to comment on the selectors’ change of heart or any lessons learnt after the tribunal hearing.
Skate NZ president Barbara Colville was no more forthcoming, declining to comment on any aspect of the case.
“All I can say is that we are very happy Samantha has been added.”
Michael, for her part, is just happy to be getting an opportunity to compete.
“It’s my last chance to compete at junior level and I wanted the opportunity to prove myself.”
The former Palmerston North skater said she also felt having competed in recent World Inline Cup marathons in Europe had enhanced her chances of a top 10 finish.
“Ultimately my goal is to help Nicole at the senior world championships.
“Perhaps she will become a multi-gold medallist, with someone there to help her.”
Michael has to self-fund the trip with no grants available to any junior skater from Skate NZ.
– The Timaru Herald