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'I'm aiming for 2016' insists Joanna Mills after Olympic team selection fiasco

The 19-year-old has been told she won’t be heading to London tomorrow with the women’s 4×400 relay team.

Joanna Mills at the Antrim Forum today.
Joanna Mills at the Antrim Forum today.
Image: INPHO/Presseye/Matt Mackey

Updated: 3.45pm

WITH THE LONDON Olympics just days away, 19-year-old track star Joanna Mills is getting used to the fact that she won’t be there.

The Olympic Council of Ireland confirmed this morning that Catriona Cuddihy had been reinstated to the Irish women’s 4x400m relay squad, which is set to depart for the English capital tomorrow.

The Olympic Council of Ireland’s Appeal Tribunal decision comes following a hearing in Dublin city centre last Thursday evening.

Mills can now take her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but with time against her it looks like Cuddihy will now join her sister Joanne, Michelle Carey, Claire Bergin, Marian Heffernan and Jessie Barr in the Irish squad.

Mills admits the situation has taken its toll.

“I think the initial disappointment of now getting selected and then being told that you are going and then being told you’re not going has been draining,” the Ballymena athlete told reporters this afternoon. “But it’s definitely something that has made me stronger and it’s something I have to see how everything pans out.

“I suppose its just the way the decision has been made. I would rather be running faster and not be going than be running faster just to get a place to go. It’s made me more determined I think defintely. I’m only 19 so realistically I’m aiming for 2016 and beyond so I cant let it stop me in my tracks. I’m going to keep my head down and it’s only made me more hungry to compete at an Olympic Games and hopefully next time it will be a lot more of a clear-cut decision. ”

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Athletics Ireland have described the messy affair as a significant learning experience, and have vowed to to conduct a post-Games review of the selection and appeals processes and their impact on all involved.

Earlier, Mills released a statement in the wake of the latest twist in the tale. Here it is, in full:

“At 21.45 last night I received word that the appeals tribunal had upheld the appeal of Catriona Cuddihy, and that Catriona had been reinstated on to the Irish Women’s 4×4 relay squad. The reasons for their decision was based on the fact that the Athletics Ireland appeal panel went beyond their scope and remit as an appeals panel when considering my original appeal on the 7th July 2012.

A strong emphasis seems to have been placed on commitment to the relay team by the High Performance Director of AAI when making his final considerations for the relay team. He seems to have not considered that I tried to contact and set up a meeting with him regarding the relay in December 2011, and that when he finally did contact me in May 2012 I made a full commitment to the team by changing my plans for the rest of the season and particularly my preparations for the World Junior Championships by attending the European Championships and participating fully in the relay practices.

The High Performance Manager and Relay Coach seem to have taken a very narrow perspective and I wonder what their long term athlete development plans for Irish athletes are? I have shown great commitment to Irish Athletics in the past with my performances at Youth Olympic, European Junior Championships where I finished 4th and also the World Junior Championships, and also felt that my experience as part of the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games 4×400 relay team in Delhi 2010 would have stood me in good stead for any future relay teams.

Performance seems to have been lost in this process, as I felt that I had shown a consistency of performance both in my achievements last year and so far this year to warrant a place on the team with out the need for arbitration.

The fact that Athletics Ireland upheld the original appeal indicates to me that I had an extremely strong case from a performance perspective and that I have lost my place for what seems to me to be purely procedural reasons. This has not diminished by enthusiasm for watching the London Olympic Games.”

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