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How the Australians could force our bobsledders out of Olympics

The first Irish women's bobsleigh team to qualify for the Winter Olympics is in jeopardy of losing its place after a late objection from Australia.

In a dramatic twist to the Irish team's run-up to the Games in Vancouver, the women's bobsleigh pair will find out later today whether they are permitted to stay in the competition.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has supported an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that they should have been included in the 20-team line-up.

The Irish duo of Aoife Hoey (26) and Claire Bergin (24) achieved higher qualification standards than the Australians, and they are currently 19th on the qualification table, after an Austrian team pulled out. Japan is in 20th place but the Australian team say that because they are on the continent of Oceania, this automatically entitles them to a guaranteed place.

Australia was the top-ranked nation in Oceania and the AOC said the pair met the minimum qualification standards despite much weaker performances than Ireland.

If the Aussies are successful in their bid, the Irish team could have their dreams crushed and they will be knocked out of the Olympic Games.

Today the Australian duo, Astrid Loch-Wilkinson and Cecilia McIntosh, said they are ready to face CAS and that they have travelled to Vancouver in the hope of achieving a place.

"Australian Women's bobsleigh are pumped for ourselves and the AOC to fight our case in court. Go Australia go," they said.

Fiona de Jong, the Australian committee's director of sport, lodged the appeal in an attempt to gain a Games berth after the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) failed to award a place to any team from the Oceania region.

The AOC have accused the FIBT of not upholding its rules.

"The FIBT should have chosen 18 teams and then reserved the last two places for teams from Oceania and Asia," de Jong said. "They have not followed their qualification system."

The Irish team has been 10 years in training for this event and are currently based in Whistler, Canada, in training and awaiting the final decision of CAS.

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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