Figure skater Lee set for Games berth
 
By Glenn Cullen, AAP
1 February, 2010
 

Gifted Sydney figure skater Cheltzie Lee looks set to get a late call-up to the Vancouver Games after the Israeli Olympic Committee controversially refused to nominate their own athlete.

Tamar Katz met the International Skating Union's (ISU) standards for Olympic eligibility but the Israeli Olympic Committee imposed a tougher benchmark, including finishing in the top 14 at the recent European Championships.

Katz finished 21st.

As first reserve 16-year-old Lee is now expected to get the call-up. Lee's coach Kylie Fennell was still cautious about the Israeli Olympic Committee's announcement, saying Katz may still have other avenues of appeal.

"Until anything comes through from the ISU we still stand as first reserve," Fennell said.

"Never assume anything in figure skating."

Any action from Katz will have to happen swiftly though, Tuesday being the deadline for nominations.

Regardless, the Israeli Olympic Committee remains steadfast in its decision.

In a statement to AAP it said its qualifying criteria for the Winter Olympics had been plainly set out two years ago and it no longer had a policy "just to participate".

"With all the sorrow Tamar Katz and other athletes who qualified the international criteria won't be included in this delegation," the statement said.

An Olympic Games berth would be another upswing in a rollercoaster two years for high school student Lee - regarded by some as a potential star in the sport.

In December 2007 she was involved in a car accident on the way to her first training session in Colorado, sustaining a double stress fracture to her back.

Carrying the injury she finished a disappointing 23rd at the world junior championships in March 2008 but after limiting her training for the next eight months to fully recover Lee bounced back spectacularly.

In her first senior competition, against a full international field, she finished 13th, with Canadian four-time world champion Kurt Browning seeking Lee out for a personal congratulations.

Then things took a dive again, Lee disappointing at the world championships and subsequent competitions, eventually leaving her as third reserve for the Winter Olympics.

With further international withdrawals Lee rose to first reserve, the Katz imbroglio taking her for another emotional ride.

Meanwhile in other Winter Olympics news Jenny Owens (ski cross) and Ramone Cooper (moguls) have been cleared to compete at the Games.

Cooper's was a remarkable turnaround after tearing his knee cartilage two weeks ago, the Jindabyne-based skier surprising doctors with the speed of his recovery.

Owens was always confident of getting a start despite ongoing knee issues but the multiple World Cup medallist will be stretching things to get on the podium after disrupted campaign.