In a somewhat dramatic turn of events during the latest round of what seems like a long-running Olympic selection saga, former Chair of the Triathlon Australia Elite Selection Committee (TAESC) and a Director of Triathlon Australia (TA), Michelle Gallen tendered her resignation last week. To many, Olympic team selection appears to have been a confusing and drawn-out process to date. Michelle talked exclusively with Firstoffthebike.com’s Phil Wrochna to explain the process taken by the TAESC, the ensuing boardroom antics and the possible fallout from her resignation.
By way of background, can you walk us through the responsibilities of those involved and the process undertaken by the TAESC and TA board?
As selectors, we’ve spent a couple of years on this process. We’ve finally come up with the recommendations and then those recommendations go to the board for endorsement. The board can’t replace the nominations, but they are meant to endorse the nominations before they go to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).
According to TA policy, the board has to endorse the nominations recommended by the selection committee before they are presented to the AOC. Because it is Olympic year it is a slightly different process in that TA doesn’t select the team, the AOC selects the team. So what Triathlon Australia is responsible for is nominating athletes to the AOC for selection.
Obviously our policy had some facility for automatic selection, which was really, really tough and no athletes met this (that being, win London ITU 2011 and come top three in the World Championship Series). One athlete, Emma Jackson, came quite close, in that she came fourth in the series and fourth at London (17 seconds behind the winner).
As nobody met the automatic selection criteria, it then defaults to the discretion of the selectors. The policy sets out nine items that the selectors will take into consideration in exercising that discretion, without limiting it in any way. So just to go through the process that has occurred, obviously the selectors have been meeting for 18 months because we started by selecting the shadow team, which was a fairly automatic process and then we have just kept updating, updating, updating. In November we met and made the early nominations that were accepted by the board of Emma Moffatt and Brad Kahlefeldt.
What was the plan following Sydney ITU as far as revisiting the remaining places on an Olympic team?
We always had a plan of coming back to the board following Sydney ITU in April this year (Saturday 14th April). We hoped to come back at that point with the nominations for the rest of the team to give the athletes the maximum amount of time possible to prepare for the Olympics. The Board had been told that we planned to do that. So following the race on Saturday we sat down on Saturday afternoon and came up with the final four nominations, two were men and two were women, which we took to the board on Sunday. We ran through some of our deliberations to point out the key issues that we had taken into consideration. We were able to account for how we had considered each of those key policy items and then we exercised our discretion and decided upon four names. However, the board didn’t endorse all of our recommendations. They sent it back to the committee to say ‘We don’t think you’ve considered this thing’ and they gave us a list of things that they considered we hadn’t looked at properly.