EMILY SARSFIELD is set to take legal action against the British Olympic Association (BOA) in an attempt to overturn the decision not to award her a place at next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Sarsfield, who is from Brancepeth, is working with London-based barrister Siza Agha, who successfully represented Dwain Chambers when he won his battle against the BOA's lifetime Olympic ban for athletes who had been suspended for doping.
Earlier this week, the BOA did not include Sarsfield in their 56-strong team for the Winter Olympics after British Ski and Snowboard recommended that she was not awarded a place in the ski cross event.
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To meet British Ski and Snowboard's qualifying criteria, Sarsfield, who does not receive a penny of funding from either her sport's governing body or UK Sport, had to achieve three top-24 international finishes during the current Olympic cycle as well as a place in the top 32 of the world rankings.
She fulfilled the first part of the criteria some time ago, but was ranked 34th when the International Skiing Federation (FIS) released their ski cross rankings earlier this month.
However, once injuries, retirements and national quota limits were taken into account, Sarsfield comfortably rose into the top 32 and was therefore awarded an Olympic place by the FIS.
However, the BOA claim they are not allowed to consider any 'handback places' under the terms of a qualification agreement with British Ski and Snowboard.
Both parties consider the matter closed, but Agha claims that in 2010, the BOA allowed British athletes to compete in four disciplines at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver – alpine, snowboarding, cross-country and freestyle – under the same reallocation procedure.
“There's no reason I can see why the BOA would not take up that place in the same way they did in Vancouver,” said Agha. “It's not an issue that is suddenly going to open the floodgates as I believe it affects two British athletes at most.
“I find it surprising that in a sport where we're effectively an emerging country, we're not doing everything we can to increase participation. If she was French or Polish or Austrian and was in the same position, she'd be going.”
Agha has assembled a group of lawyers who are willing to work for free on the case and is believed to be preparing a formal legal challenge to the BOA's decision.
When the authorities' decision was first questioned, a spokesperson for British Ski and Snowboard said: “When the FIS last published their rankings, she did not meet the qualifying criteria we had set. That was the reason she wasn't put forward by British Ski and Snowboard.”