Instead, only Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Paul Adams has won selection, leaving second-placed Luke Argiro, who equalled the world record last year, devastated at being snubbed.
The 25-year-old from Mildura and another skeet competitor, London and Rio Olympian Keith Ferguson, say the message from SA officials ever since a Tokyo Ready shoot in Melbourne in December was that there would be two quota spots.
As sports started locking down last month, Argiro said he would not have driven to Sydney and back for the last qualifying event from March 20 to 22 if he had not been told there would be a second position for Tokyo.
“We have been misled the whole way from our federation,” Argiro said. “We were going to Sydney into the coronavirus shoot, shooting for second spot.
“Why would I risk my health, and my dad’s health – he comes with me to every shoot – and we go back to Mildura and infect the rest of my family? We had to travel 20 hours for the shoot, up and back, and stay in a hotel.
“This might have been my only Olympic shot and I’ve been promised the world. It’s me sitting in second spot, but it could have been the other competitors. I haven’t slept in days, ever since I was told. It feels just like a kick in the guts.”
The sport has become notorious for pre-Games unrest, with teenager Mitchell Iles heading to the Court of Arbitration for Sport four years ago when dual gold medallist Michael Diamond and Adam Vella were selected ahead of him in men’s trap and overlooked skeet shooter Laura Coles threatened ahead of Rio to go to the Australian Human Rights Commission to challenge SA’s discretionary selection policy.
Sources say Iles, now 21, is another controversial absentee from Olympic nominations after being denied the chance to claw back points because only two shooters competed in his class in Sydney last month amid the worsening COVID-19 outbreak.
Ferguson, 40, said it was “no secret” that the plan was for men’s skeet to be awarded a second quota spot.
“Not just the athletes, there was coaches and that that were told as well by members of Shooting Australia,” the Victorian said. “None of us would have gone to Sydney – they’ve wasted our time, money and risked our health.”
SA chief executive Luke van Kempen said swapping quotas was a consideration but had not been guaranteed.
“I’m certainly aware that our staff and that Shooting Australia has discussed all the different possibilities for athletes over the course of their journey into the selection,” he said. “Never was anything promised.”
Van Kempen maintained “no one’s health was put at risk” by staging the event at Cecil Park three weeks ago.
“We revised the last nomination event to fit within all the government guidelines as existed at that time to ensure that we could complete our nomination series,” he said.
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“We invited only athletes who held a minimum qualification score and in turn only athletes who could qualify for nomination to the Olympic team. In presenting that invitation we specifically outlined in a letter that it was the choice [of] the athlete whether they wanted to come and compete or not.
“Within each discipline there was four [qualifying] events and basically three of the events would count towards that. So if any athlete chose not to attend the last event, which none of them did, they still would have had as fair an opportunity as anyone to have their three best scores go towards their selection.
“I’ve got full confidence in the [selection] policy that we have.”
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.