Squash star set to defect to US
ONE of Scotland's most promising young squash players is planning to defect to the United States' squad amid a bitter row over team selection and allegations of bullying.
Teenager Robyn Hodgson has already represented Scotland but now intends to take up a sports scholarship at a top American university after being deselected for the national team.
The 18-year-old was dropped after her mother challenged the sport's governing body, Scottish Squash, over allegations that her daughter had been bullied.
Scottish Squash flatly deny the bullying claims and insist Hodgson, from Peterculter near Aberdeen, was dropped for "failing to meet the selection criteria" including not attending the majority of squad sessions, most of them held in Edinburgh.
Hodgson's family have threatened Scottish Squash with court proceedings unless they agree to reverse the selection decision.
If she is ultimately unsuccessful in getting back into the team, Hodgson will take up her sports scholarship offer in Hartford, Connecticut, and put herself forward on residency grounds for selection for the USA team.
Hodgson is Scotland's top junior squash player according to the official rankings of the European Squash Federation (ESF). She was losing finalist in the latest national championship for her age group.
Despite that, she has been dropped from the Scottish team at the forthcoming European-wide junior championships in Germany.
Her family have instructed lawyers to ask for the decision to be reversed or seeka judicial review in the Court of Session, a step which could threaten the financial future of the governing body. Solicitors for Hodgson have already written to Scottish Squash alleging "irregularities" in the selection procedure, and warned that the judicial review would involve "allegations of bullying."
The letter added: "There seems little doubt at least to any objective observer and certainly to many within the sport, that our client's exclusion is both unfair and arbitrary."
Hodgson told Scotland on Sunday: "It is clear that I am no longer wanted by the selectors and I have been shown no respect."
Hodgson says her complaints about the style of coaching relate to when she was 15 and 16. She claimed: "Among other things, I was told we had to follow the coaches around all day and were to be seen and not heard.
"Another time, two girls were punished by being made to run up and down stairs until one of them dropped.
"One time in Ireland when I was 15, I was told to sit apart and eat my breakfast on my own so that I wouldn't spread my 'disease' to the rest of the team."
Hodgson's mother, Elizabeth Rhodes, said: "It went on year after year, and made Robyn's life hell.
"But we have decided to make one last attempt through the law to keep her in the Scottish fold."
Jim Ackers told Scotland on Sunday he had withdrawn his 16-year-old daughter, Lindsay, from the Scottish training squad for similar reasons. He said: "She is in the top three in her age group but is not a member of the chosen set in Edinburgh and the situation will not improve until the structure is changed."
Australian Paul Frank, the sport's national performance director, rejected the claims and said Hodgson "has never received more or less welcome than any of our other promising players".
He denied "completely" any allegation that anyone had been bullied. He said: "My goodness, you are talking about children.
"With regard to running up and down stairs, I don't recall ever in my career using that as any form of punishment. It would not be normal practice."
Frank added: "I accept that when you are dealing with matters of national representation, passions run high. I do not consider myself personally abrasive. I'm Australian so possibly the accent does me no favours."
Frank added that Hodgson failed to meet the criteria for selection on two grounds, failing to attend squad sessions and not playing in a ranking tournament.
Scottish Squash suffered a major blow eight years ago when its best-ever player, world champion Peter Nicol, defected from Scotland to England.
Nicol, who like Hodgson, hailed from the north-east, changed allegiance in 2001, claiming that he did not get enough support from the Scottish governing body. He went on to take a silver at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, wearing the white and red of England having won the same event for Scotland four years before.
Nicol always denied his move to England was about money, saying he left his homeland for better sporting back-up and facilities. He said: "I've never had any support from Scotland."
Scottish Squash chief executive Kim Atkinson is on annual leave. A spokeswoman for SportScotland said they were aware of the Hodgson issue but could not interfere with the activities of a governing body.
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