(PRWEB) July 16, 2012
David Roberts' hopes of surpassing Tanni Grey-Thompson on 11 Paralympic gold medals have ended after he failed to reverse his omission from the London 2012 swimming squad.
The 32-year-old was excluded from the ParalympicsGB squad in April after missing the Paralympic qualification times in the S7 50m and 100m freestyle events at the British International Disability Swimming Championships in Sheffield.
However, after a two-month process, Roberts won an appeal forcing John Atkinson, the performance director for disability at British Swimming, to reconsider Roberts' selection because he had suffered from illness in the run-up to the trials. But despite the review, Atkinson said the original decision will stand.
"It's awful to think that I'll never be able to compete in the Paralympics in Britain, my home nation," said Roberts. "I fought for the opportunity to be reconsidered tooth and nail, but after months of waiting and hoping, it wasn't enough. I'm still not going to compete as part of the team that I've trained with for 14 years."
However, Roberts was adamant the snub did not signal the end of his swimming career. "Just so you all know this is not my retirement," he wrote on Twitter. Roberts is level on 11 career golds alongside Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and needs one more to pass the former wheelchair racer on the list of Britain’s most successful Paralympians.
Roberts, a four-time champion in Beijing, had only returned to full-time training in March after suffering from pneumonia.
While Roberts had been overlooked in the original squad, defending Paralympic SB6 100m breaststroke champion Liz Johnson and European SB6 100m breaststroke gold medallist Charlotte Henshaw were both included, despite missing their qualification times. Atkinson justified the decision to include them because both were ranked in the top four in their events, unlike Roberts.
However, the Welshman said injuries and illness affected his ability to train and compete and was unable to improve upon his world ranking. And he used that argument to force Atkinson to reconsider his original selection. But the review process under discretionary criteria, based around fitness and medical issues, resulted in the same outcome for Roberts.
British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes said: "After a robust and independent appeals process, British Swimming followed the recommendations of the independent Appeals Committee and after receiving an independent medical report we believe Dave has not met the standards set out for selection to the Paralympics Games.
"Obviously we are sorry that Dave will not be there and we all wish him well for the future. I am sure that he along with all of us wish the whole Paralympic team good luck for the Games."
As well as illness, Roberts' Paralympic preparations were hampered by an incredible run of bad luck. In 2009, Roberts fractured his elbow after he was dragged into a tree while taking his dog for a walk. The following year he spent a week in hospital in order to have kidney stones removed, and he missed last year’s European Championships after breaking his elbow in a collision with another swimmer while training in Caerphilly.
Roberts, who has cerebral palsy, won freestyle gold medals in the S7 50m, 100m and 400m and the 4x100m relay in Beijing four years ago.
Swimmer Mike Kenny remains GB's most decorated Paralympian with 17 gold medals between 1976 and 1988.