'Totally unfair': Aussie divers miss Olympics in 'devastating' furore

Anabelle Smith and Maddison Keeney, pictured here with their bronze medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Anabelle Smith and Maddison Keeney pose with their bronze medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Australian divers Anabelle Smith and Maddison Keeney have been denied the chance to defend their Olympic bronze medal after FINA opted to push ahead with a qualifying event in Tokyo despite Australia's withdrawal.

Diving Australia decided to pull out of the May 1-6 World Cup for safety reasons after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Tokyo.

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However FINA is pressing ahead with the event anyway, meaning Smith and Keeney won't have the chance to qualify for the Olympics in the synchronised three-metre springboard event.

The Australian pair won bronze in the event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and have been left devastated by FINA's decision.

"To have our team's opportunity to qualify in remaining events removed, due to decisions that oppose one of the very principles of Olympism 'fair play' is truly devastating," Smith wrote on Instagram on Saturday.

"Maddi and I have been stripped of our chance to defend our Olympic bronze medal, in an event we have pushed the boundaries in since Rio.

"I have been pretty numb over the past few weeks, but writing this now it becomes very real.

"I will continue to remain positive over the next few days, that fairness and common sense prevail."

The World Cup had originally been scheduled to begin in Tokyo on April 18, but having considered a change of venue, FINA moved it to the later date after discussions with Games organisers, the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee.

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Keeney echoed her partner's comments in an Instagram post of her own.

"Having to choose between putting the health and safety of myself and fellow Australians at risk, and travelling to earn a quota spot for the Olympics is not a situation I should have to put myself in," she wrote.

"Absolutely disappointed that we have to pull out of the event, but more so disappointed in FINA and their decision to push forth with the World Cup.

"The Olympics is about fairness, equality and excellence, all at which are thrown out the window with their decision, given the extreme situation the pandemic has caused around the world."

Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith, pictured here in action at the FINA Diving World Cup in 2019.
Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith in action at the FINA Diving World Cup in 2019. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Olympic modern pentathlon gold medallist Chloe Esposito was among those to send condolences to Smith and Keeney.

"Sending the biggest hug, this is so upsetting. Thinking of you both," Esposito wrote.

Racewalking champion Dane Bird-Smith wrote: "Heartbreaking and totally unfair. FINA placing profits over athletes and safety."

Australia, the seventh most successful nation in Olympic diving, have already secured seven spots in the diving competition for Tokyo but could have earned five more at the World Cup.

Diving Australia said it was confident the Olympics would be safe for athletes and was continuing discussions with FINA over "qualification flowing from the World Cup".

"FINA has stated a 'fair competition is of utmost importance' and that the World Cup should be a 'safe, secure and fair Olympic qualification event'," it said in the statement announcing the Australian withdrawal from the World Cup.

"It is our clear position, in light of the current circumstances, that a fair and safe Olympic qualification event is not possible at this time."

with AAP

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