Petition as Tonia Couch is denied chance to dive for solo gold at London 2012
A SHOCK decision to deny Plymouth diver Tonia Couch a chance to dive for individual gold in the Olympics has been condemned as a slap in the face.
Tonia was passed over by British Diving selectors after taking silver in the British Gas Diving Championships in Sheffield at the weekend. The woman she beat into third place, Sheffield diver Monique Gladding, was controversially selected instead.
Tonia will have to be content with a place in the 10-metre platform synchro event with her partner Sarah Barrow.
City council leader Tudor Evans said it was a slap in the face for Tonia and for Plymouth. And his predecessor Cllr Vivien Pengelly said: "I expect she is gutted and I really do feel for her."
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Mr Evans said last night: "Tonia has been flying the flag not just for Plymouth but for Great Britain and for women's diving.
"She must be desperately disappointed. It seems unfair for the federation to have done this when she has played such a great role as an ambassador for the sport.
"If there is any chance of overturning this decision it must be done.
"Thankfully she won't miss the Olympics altogether but you have to question the selection system which almost seems to discount consistency.
"I think a slap in the face for Tonia and Plymouth is exactly what it is."
Former council leader Vivien Pengelly said: "I was shocked. She is the best woman diver in the country and I'm amazed she wasn't selected.
"She is fit and she has trained hard. We all automatically assumed that she would be in the individual competition. She deserves it."
Tonia's coach Andy Banks said last night that he would lodge an appeal against the decision.
He said: "I feel, quite strongly, that she has demonstrated over the course of this year that she is still the UK's premier platform diver – she has been since 2008."
Tonia's parents Chris and Sally Couch could not speak last night because an appeal has been lodged, but were "disappointed and upset" for their daughter.
Tonia was overlooked by a British Diving selection panel, headed by performance director Alexei Evangulov, despite beating Gladding into third place at the British Gas Diving Championships – which doubled as the Olympic qualifiers – at the weekend.
Oliver Colvile, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: "It's very disappointing when these things happen. But I don't think MPs have a good role to play in picking potential gold medallists. I wish her the very best of luck in trying to overturn this disappointing decision."
And Alison Seabeck, the MP for Plymouth Moor View, said: "It's very sad for her. Tonia must be very disappointed given all the hard work she has put in.
"The city will be disappointed but these decisions are ultimately for British Diving. I am sure everyone in the city will get behind her in the synchro event and I hope she wins gold."
Cllr Mike Wright, the Lord Mayor, called on British Diving to reconsider its decision.
"I believe we could lose without her. She is a talented youngster and should be given the chance to shine."
After yesterday's selection, Tonia tweeted: "Picked 4 syncro but not for individual. I dived my socks off with a PB and came 2nd, had the best year yet not been picked for 2012 #gutted."
The Herald has launched a campaign to get Tonia reinstated, sign up to our petition below.