Yachting New Zealand is preparing to defend its controversial selection criteria this week, with the Sports Tribunal set to hear the appeals of two Olympic hopefuls.
Sara Winther and Natalia Kosinska are challenging their non-nomination for Rio, after the national body declined to select them in their respective Laser Radial and RS:X classes. This was despite the pair qualifying New Zealand a spot at the world championships in Santander in 2014.
Winther and Kosinska's appeal will be heard by the Sports Tribunal this week after a failed bid to resolve the dispute in mediation.
It is likely the case will centre around Yachting New Zealand's tough, yet subjective, selection criteria, which states the athletes must demonstrate they are capable of winning a medal at the Olympics to earn a nomination. It is understood the policy, which the sailors are prevented from disclosing, specifies selection regattas which athletes must perform at, but does not outline what standards they have to achieve at those regattas.
Given the Sports Tribunal can make a ruling only on whether the Yachting NZ selectors have correctly followed the criteria rather than judge the merits of the policy, Winther and Kosinska face an uphill battle to argue their case for inclusion.
Of the two, Winther appears to have the strongest case for inclusion in the Games team, having finished in the top 10 nations (11th overall) at last month's world championships in Mexico. She followed that up with another 11th placing at a World Cup regatta in Hyeres.
Her performance in Mexico met the published benchmark for selection in the NZL Sailing Team, being one of "New Zealand's top Olympic campaigners who have made the top 12 in their most recent [respective] class world championships ... and have shown consistency of performance over the years". There is no new NZL Sailing Team selected this year, with the squad being the actual Olympic team.
For its part, Yachting NZ makes no apologies for its tough selection criteria, deliberately setting the bar high for athletes to ensure the continued success of its programmes.