Table Tennis: Top player in row over Games omission

By Steve Deane

Kiwi table tennis champ upset at losing out on selection for Glasgow to inactive players

Four-time national table tennis champion Sarah Her-Lee had her appeal to the Sports Tribunal rejected despite its concerns. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Four-time national table tennis champion Sarah Her-Lee had her appeal to the Sports Tribunal rejected despite its concerns. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand's top female domestic table tennis player is considering appealing to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport after being overlooked for selection to attend the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

Four-time national champion Sarah Her-Lee failed to make the five-player Games squad. Two overseas-based players who have been inactive for years were chosen instead.

One of the players in the Kiwi team, Beijing-based Sun Yang, last held a world ranking of 369 in 2011 and has not competed internationally since. Another, Taiwan-based Jenny Hung, has had her world ranking of 433 reinstated after playing just one international match - a loss at this year's World Team's Championships - since August 2012.

While Her-Lee's ranking is 572, she has been an active player both on the New Zealand domestic scene and as a club player in Europe.

A dispute with the country's top-ranked player, Li Chunli, during the Commonwealth Championships last year has been cited by Table Tennis New Zealand (TTNZ) as a factor in Her-Lee's non-selection.

The dispute arose when Chunli, who was coach of the national team, accused Her-Lee of not trying hard enough when she lost her opening two matches. Chunli benched Her-Lee for the final two matches of the tournament, a move she felt jeopardised her chances of Commonwealth Games selection. When Her-Lee complained, Chunli suggested she take her complaint to the board of TTNZ. The board, of which Chunli was a member, ruled Her-Lee was at fault and ordered her to apologise.

Initially she refused. However, in March she provided a written apology. She said was was then informed by TTNZ the incident was considered closed, only for it to be raised later as one of the reasons she wasn't selected.

An appeal by Her-Lee to the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand was this week rejected despite the tribunal admitting concerns about the selection of Yang and Hung.

"Usually sporting selections depend upon recent international competitive results," the tribunal noted in a decision yet to be released. It also stated the dispute between Her-Lee and Chunli clearly had a "lingering effect".

"I'm really disappointed," Her-Lee said. "If I miss out on a team because the other players are better than me, I am fine with that. But in this case it is clearly players who haven't been playing, haven't been active, who have suddenly come out of nowhere."

Chairman Paul Kyle said TTNZ had "selected the best side possible".

Li Chunli said she was concentrating on her preparation and training ahead of tomorrow's departure for Glasgow and denied she had played a role in Her-Lee's omission.

- NZ Herald

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