NEWS
03/01/2012 06:10 EST | Updated 05/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada's top rhythmic gymnast Chamilova won't go to London after losing appeal

The country's top-ranked rhythmic gymnast won't be going to the London Olympics, and the decision to leave her off Canada's team has left Mariam Chamilova unsure about her future in the sport.

Chamilova has lost an appeal to be added to the team for the Summer Games, the punctuation mark on a bitter dispute between the 18-year-old athlete and Gymnastics Canada.

"She is right now in the position to decide whether she wants to do gymnastics or not," said Naida Chamilova, Mariam's mom. "It's very disappointing because she feels like Canada let her down."

Chamilova, twice named Canada's rhythmic gymnast of the year, appealed to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada after Gymnastics Canada ruled they wouldn't add the Ottawa native to the team for the London Games.

The trouble began when Chamilova turned down a spot on the six-member team for the group event in 2010 to focus on competing as an individual.

Chamilova, who was 16 at the time, was told there would be a second selection event to choose the six athletes for the team at the London Olympics. Gymnastics Canada then opted not to hold a second qualifying event after the team earned an Olympic spot.

Naida Chamilova said she wants people to know that Canada won't be sending its top athletes to London.

"We hear on TV almost every day that Canada is sending the best athletes, but we've learned from our experience that's not true," Naida said in a phone interview from her Ottawa home. "This message misinforms Canadian public. Gymnastics Canada is sending athletes that they promised before they would send, this has nothing to do with being the best athletes."

Gymnastics Canada president and CEO Jean-Paul Caron would not comment on the case.

Chamilova, who trained in Moscow for four years and now lives and trains in Toronto, was the top-ranked gymnast in the 2010 team selection. She won a silver at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and bronze at the Pan American Games last October.

"She was praised by Gymnastics Canada that she improved so much and she was the only gymnast with very consistent and strong performances on the Canadian side, and look what happened," said Naida Chamilova.

She said they asked Gymnastics Canada to either hold a second selection process, use the previous selection results, replace the weakest gymnast on the team, or expand the team to seven athletes with one being an alternate to compete in the event of injury or illness.

Arbitrator Ross Dumoulin ruled that it was "only fair and right" to choose the athletes who qualified Canada's team for the Olympics — by being the top Pan American team at the world championships — to compete in London.

"Why wouldn't you have the six athletes who were on the team that finished first among all the other Pan-American countries, thus qualifying for the Olympics, be the ones who participate in those Olympics?" Dumoulin wrote in his decision. "It is not only fair, but wise to send your winning team."

Chamilova didn't qualify for London in individual events, and Canada only qualified in the group event.

Dumoulin also wrote that it would be "grossly unfair" to replace a gymnast after they'd committed themselves to the team program for more than year.

Gymnastics Canada said it removed the second team selection event because a change in the group less than five months before the Olympics would have a negative effect on Games preparation.

Team member Kelsey Titmarsh testified that she didn't agree with adding Chamilova to the team because it would upset team chemistry.

"I see already that having a seventh gymnast train on the side is very un-beneficial," Titmarsh said in a written statement. "It causes unneeded tension, stress and is an overall disturbance to the development of the team. It will cause separation within the team and will negatively effect the team's preparation for the 2012 Games."

Chamilova's lawyer Stephen Maddex said he was surprised by the result.

"We had a lot of very compelling evidence about what Mariam's thought process was in November 2010," he said. "And all that evidence really that we had was by and large uncontroverted. . . I thought we had a pretty strong case. The hard part of it is Gymnastics Canada made up its mind what it was going to do in the summer of 2011 and there is nothing anybody can do to change it."

Naida Chamilova said she could take the case to federal court, but "I don't want to waste my time."

She said her daughter, a Grade 12 student, will need some time to decide her future in the sport.

"Now it's a very emotional moment for her," Naida said. "It was her dream to go to the Olympics. Everybody says and everybody knows that she is the top athlete in this sport in this country and she has been for three years.

"That's why when you put everything on the table, you have no explanation."