Social media platforms around the world exploded after news broke of Great Britain’s National Champion, Tre Whyte, being nixed from the British Cycling 2016 World Championship team. British Cycling announced their picks for the team after the conclusion of round two of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup that was held in Manchester. Out of the six open spots they were granted, Liam Phillips automatically took one for making the main event at the Worlds in 2015. With five spots remaining, British Cycling chose to only fill two of them. One with Elite Men’s Kyle Evans, and the other for Junior Women’s competitor Bethany Shriever. So why would you not add your countries own national champion to the list of Olympic hopefuls?
Now if you ask me, it would only make sense to fill all of your available spots. There are some extremely talented riders in the U.K. and taking what many would consider the bare minimum, only disables you from utilizing all of your resources. When you look at the World Championship’s selection criteria for British Cycling, it states that the team will be selected on a discretionary basis by the established selection panel. The members of the panel are a member of the Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Management Team (GBCT SMT) or an individual nominated by GBCT SMT. A minimum of two further selection panel members will be nominated by the GBCT SMT, who may include but are not restricted to members of the GBCT SMT, coaching staff and expert advisers. The final member of this panel is an elected representative who is appointed by the CEO of British Cycling.
So why did this panel chose to omit three racers? Simply put it seems as if they did not feel they had any other riders to choose from that would provide the country with a chance at bringing home a medal during the Olympic games in Rio later this year. Some of Britain’s top racers who many feel would have been perfect fits for the team are Tre Whyte, Quillan Isidore, and Paddy Sharrock. Out of these names, the most shocking is Tre Whyte.
This is not the first time Tre has been snubbed. Back in 2014, he was not chosen for the team, but luckily he was able to attend via self-funding (something that is no longer an option). Tre went on to finish on the podium by grabbing a third in the Elite Men’s final. Now Tre is the current National Champion and yet once again will miss out on putting on his countries jersey for the 2016 World Championships. What gives? I reached out to some of the greats in U.K.’s BMX scene to get their opinions.
Tre’s long time mentor and coach Michael Pusey from Peckham Challengers BMX Club said this in a formal complaint to the members of the British Cycling selection panel, “Considering Tre Whyte wasn't selected for the World Championships where he won a bronze medal, and he has not been selected for this year's World Championship, and potentially the Olympics despite qualifying for the World's, his high ranking and his contribution of a significant amount of points to British Cycling BMX's overall points tally, it would not be unreasonable for one to conclude there is a pattern in the way British Cycling (BMX) treats Tre Whyte. It is grossly unfair that a current World Championship medal winner and member of your Elite program has not been given the opportunity to represent his country despite places and funding being available to do so. Why is he on the British Cycling BMX Elite program if you will not select him to race in the Elite meets?”
To add more fuel to the current blaze, one of the most prolific racers from Great Britain, Dale Holmes, had this to say, “British Cycling is run by the road-velodrome mentality, the guys calling the shots; Shane Sutton & Iain Dyer are not BMXers, nor do they have passion for our sport. It is evident the only thing British Cycling supports and cares about are Olympic medals, as they translate into additional future funding. My gripe with Grant White ( Head BC BMX Coach ) is that he has raced BMX since the 80s and was even AA Pro in the US for a period of time during the 90s–he does not stick up for the riders, nor appear to stand up for what’s right. Instead of challenging what’s being handed down by the higher-ups- he continues to operate as a puppet for British Cycling. Grant understands both racing and the level of opportunity for someone like Kelvin Batey back in ’08 or now with Tre Whyte to have this chance (once in a lifetime) – to rob that opportunity from a young man trying to better his life is despicable. If you can’t stand up for what’s right – where’s your value?”
These two definitely had some heavy words for the higher ups at British Cycling and those surrounding it. In the hours since their announcement, Tre’s mother Tracey created a petition on the popular website change.org. Since it went live, it has acquired more than 1,900 signatures from those who are in support of getting Tre on the team. Unfortunately, those may not help. In order to appeal the decision, Tre and others like Quillan must appeal themselves on the grounds that the appropriate selection process was not followed. Any appeal by a third party, no matter how they are connected to the athlete, is not permissible. Another renowned member of the BMX community in the U.K. is none other than Tim March. He made a solid point about the appeals process, “How can Tre or Quillan appeal their case based on the selection process not being followed when the selection process is quote: “The team will be selected on a discretionary basis by the selection panel.” After reading this, I believe that British Cycling’s Worlds Qualification document is not fit for purpose.”
In an interview with BMX News, a spokesperson for British Cycling stated that all current members of the British Cycling Team Program are there because they felt they had the highest potential to be a medal winner at the upcoming Olympics or in the future. Apparently Tre or other top Elites in the country do not fit that bill for them, although Tre is their current National Champion. At the end of the day, there is no surprise here as to why the BMX community around the world is furious with the decision made by British Cycling. So is British Cycling ruining the sport of BMX on the other side of the pond? With actions such as this, it is certainly a blow to their already damaged reputation. This could mean a bleak future for the up and comers of the sport if the British Cycling heads do not reexamine their selection process and continue with their way of only allowing who they want. Not those who have earned their right to represent the country on one of the biggest stages BMX racing has to offer.
If you would like to sign the petition in support of Tre, please follow this link for change.org. We will continue to keep you updated on this controversy, and I for one have no issue speaking on behalf of many others by saying that change must happen for the sport to continue to grow in one of the hottest BMX scenes the world has to offer.
Top Photo Courtesy of Craig Dutton/craigdutton.com