Plymouth diver Tonia Couch's 2012 solo gold dream is crushed
TONIA COUCH has lost her appeal for a place on the Olympic individual dive team, despite a massive campaign by Herald readers – but has vowed to fight even harder for a medal at London 2012.
Plymouth rallied to show its proud support for Tonia after Team GB's performance director Alexei Evangulov earlier this month gave Monique Gladding a coveted place on the individual platform event over Tonia.
Tonia is Britain's no.1 women's diver and the controversial decision prompted over 900 to join a Herald petition to force sporting authorities to overturn it. The city rallied again when she discovered she needed to find over £2,500 to fund her appeal, with readers donating money to the cause.
But at the appeal hearing in London yesterday, authorities confirmed the decision would stand.
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Despite admitting that Tonia was better than Monique Gladding in ability and had beaten her into third place in the Olympic trials, the appeal ruled that Evangulov had not exceeded the parameters of his job remit by using his discretion to pick Gladding.
Tonia, aged 23, her coach Andy Banks and their legal team were at Sports Resolutions offices to hear the decision.
Tonia thanked Herald readers and "so many people who supported me" for keeping up her spirits in the lead up to the hearing.
And she vowed to use her confirmed place on the 10m platform synchro with fellow Plymothian Sarah Barrow to go for a medal.
She said she would not let her supporters, parents, coach Banks or herself down and is now looking forward, not back.
Tonia said: "Obviously, I'm very disappointed that the hearing went for British Swimming and not for us.
"I thought we had a chance and they did say that I was the best diver out of me and Monique. But they said Alexei had the right to decide for me to concentrate on synchro and not individual, even though the two events are a week apart. So, yes, I'm gutted, not just for me but for my coach Andy, for my parents and friends and all the fantastic people who have supported me.
"And although I wished I was diving in the individual, if anything, all this has made me doubly determined to try and win a medal in the synchro."
Banks, who had appealed on Couch's behalf when Gladding was given the nod, said: "Obviously, I'm very disappointed but I've absolutely no doubt it was a cause worth fighting for. We gave it our best shot and I don't regret taking this route.
"But ultimately, it came down to the fact that under the performance director's job description, he (Alexei Evangulov) can choose whom he sees fit.
"It is the fact that Alexei has the final word on who will compete at the Olympic Games, which convinced the panel to come down on British Swimming's side.
"I don't know if it was a moral victory for us, though, but they have been ordered to pay our travelling costs and expenses.
"We'll still have to foot the legal bill ourselves but the team itself was outstanding and although it's a lot of money, they took it on at a much-reduced rate.
"And Tonia is worth it, as the wonderful support she received from people from all walks of life clearly proved that. That was very much appreciated, I can tell you."
International weightlifting legend Michaela Breeze, MBE, has lent her support to Couch and urged her to use the setback as a spur.
"I'm gutted for Tonia," said Breeze, who lifted at two Olympic Games (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) for Great Britain and won gold medals in the Commonwealth Games for Wales.
"But I know she will re-focus on what she needs to do in the synchro and turn her frustration into positive energy."
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