Nearly 48 hours of aggravation has resulted in a moment of pure joy for Florida Gators distance runner Genevieve LaCaze, who learned Saturday that she will allowed to compete for her home country of Australia in the 2012 London Olympics.
Though LaCaze achieved an Olympic ‘A’ Standard qualifying time of 9:41.15 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Wednesday, one that automatically qualifies her for the Olympics and should earn her a spot on the Australia National Team, she achieved the mark just over a day after an arbitrary cutoff date mandated by Athletics Australia despite the organization not being forced to submit nominations to the Australian Olympic Committee until June 22.
LaCaze lodged an appeal against her exclusion with AA, noting that the reason she achieved the time after the cutoff date was because she was competing in a collegiate system in America and did not have her next race scheduled until after June 11. She was initially told her chances of winning the appeal were not good (watch her interview).
However, LaCaze received a ton of support from Australians (Twitter account @LetLacazeGo had 572 followers as of Saturday morning, numerous of Twitter users tweeted the hashtag #LetLacazeGo and many others wrote to AA and stood outside the building in Australia to protest). AOC president John Coates even threw all of his support behind her inclusion on the team.
“I certainly urge Australian athletics to nominate her and use whatever discretion they’ve got,” Coates said on Friday, according to The Australian. “She’s clearly passed the A qualifying time and as far as I’m concerned she should be going to the Games. My understanding is that while there are cutoff times and dates, there is the opportunity for discretion to be used where someone is going to finish in the top eight or has the potential to do so in Rio [at the 2016 Olympics].”
However, AA’s representatives still felt that LaCaze did not deserve to a part of the team as it would be unfair to the other competitors despite the fact that she would not be taking anyone’s spot because Australia did not have another female runner who hit either the A or B qualifying times in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
In the end, as the AOC noted, “common sense prevailed,” and LaCaze won her appeal to have her qualifying time counted as AA extended their cutoff date to June 22, the day in which the official submissions must be made to the AOC.
— Genevieve LaCaze (@GenGen_LaCaze) June 16, 2012
“It’s a terrific decision because Genevieve is not only a great talent, who has done a great time for London, but she’s also someone for the future and we’re all about nurturing athletes and talent for the future,” AOC spokesman Mike Tancred told The Australian. “It’s not only the fact she’ll be running in London but we’re looking forward to her hopefully continuing on to Rio 2016.”
AA chief executive Dallas O’Brien said his organization took their cue from the AOC.
“The AOC certainly made it clear they were keen to extend [the deadline] out to the 22nd of June for everybody so we’re happy and it’s hopefully a win-win for everybody,” he said. “Obviously we’re really thrilled for Genevieve to be in the team. And, from Athletics Australia’s point of view, it looks like we’ll now have an additional A-qualifier which takes it up to 55 athletes for the Olympics, which is a great result for us.”