The IAAF’s New Olympic Qualifying Procedure

When fans flock to the new Hayward Field in 2020 athletes will have to perform at a higher level than ever. (UNIVERSITY OF OREGON)

THE IAAF was eager to bring its “new” world rankings into production in time for them to play a major role in selecting qualifiers for this year’s World Championships, but a firestorm of negative reaction from athletes, managers and national federations alike put the kibosh on that idea (“Last Lap,” November). Confident that it has now worked out the kinks, the international federation has announced that its mark/place-based compilations will be a major factor in qualifying for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

How major? Major to the tune of about a 50/50 ratio with traditional qualifying standards. The Q-standard numbers are anything but “traditional,” however, as the following charts show. The numbers—by definition—are going to be tough to achieve.

Countries that rely on a qualifying meet (see primarily the USA) will undoubtedly not have as many automatic qualifiers from that meet as they used to and will have to plan on gaining more Olympic berths via the world rankings (not to be confused with T&FN’s World Rankings) route.

With the tighter standards, athletes will be able to qualify from an extended window. For Tokyo, the Q-period starts on May 01, 2019 and closes on June 29, 2020 (that’s a day after the U.S. Olympic Trials wrap up). The walk window closes earlier, on May 31, 2020.

The new standards, and for comparison’s sake, those used for Rio ’16:

Men’s Olympic Qualifying Standards
Event 2020 Standards 2016 Standards
100 10.05 10.16
200 20.24 20.50
400 44.90 45.40
800 1:45.20 1:46.00
1500 3:35.00 3:36.20
Steeple 8:22.00 8:30.00
5000 13:13.50 13:25.00
10,000 27:28.00 28:00.00
110 Hurdles 13.32 13.47
400 Hurdles 48.90 49.40
Marathon 2:11:30 2:19:00
20K Walk 1:21:00 1:24:00
50K Walk 3:50:00 4:06:00
High Jump 2.33 | 7-7¾ 2.29 | 7-6
Pole Vault 5.80 | 19-½ 5.70 | 18-8¼
Long Jump 8.22 | 26-11¾ 8.15 | 26-9
Triple Jump 17.14 | 56-2¾ 16.85 | 55-3½
Shot 21.10 | 69-2¾ 20.50 | 67-3¼
Discus 66.00 | 216-6 65.00 | 213-3
Hammer 77.50 | 254-3 77.00 | 252-7
Javelin 85.00 | 278-10 83.00 | 272-4
Decathlon 8350 8100
Women’s Olympic Qualifying Standards
Event 2020 Standards 2016 Standards
100 11.15 11.32
200 22.80 23.20
400 51.35 52.20
800 1:59.50 2:01.50
1500 4:04.20 4:07.00
Steeple 9:30.00 9:45.00
5000 15:10.00 15:24.00
10,000 31:25.00 32:15.00
100 Hurdles 12.84 13.00
400 Hurdles 55.40 56.20
Marathon 2:29:30 2:45:00
20K Walk 1:31:00 1:36:00
50K Walk to be contested? not contested
High Jump 1.96 | 6-5 1.93 | 6-4
Pole Vault 4.70 | 15-5 4.50 | 14-9
Long Jump 6.82 | 22-4½ 6.70 | 21-11¾
Triple Jump 14.32 | 46-11¾ 14.15 | 46-5¼
Shot 18.50 | 60-8½ 17.75 | 58-3
Discus 63.50 | 208-4 61.00 | 200-1
Hammer 72.50 | 237-10 71.00 | 232-11
Javelin 64.00 | 210-0 62.00 | 203-5
Heptathlon 6420 6200

What Do The New Standards Mean For The OT?

Figuring out how much effect the new standards will have on the Olympic Trials is tough. The answers at this point range from “definitely” to “we’ll get back to you.”

While recent editions of the Olympic Trials have increasingly featured instances of top-3 athletes not having the standard, the effect will be more pronounced this time around.

Amid confusion on how USATF will handle the new paradigm, it appears as if the federation has been caught off guard.

In an e-mail to LetsRun, USATF’s Susan Hazzard stated, “While we are disappointed in this initial [IAAF] announcement, we will enthusiastically advocate for additional changes that serve in the best interest of our sport. For the U.S., the 3 highest-placing finishers at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, and who have the 2020 Olympic Games qualifying standard, will select themselves for the U.S. Team.”

That sounds like the same protocol that has long been in place, with one notable difference: no mention of using the IAAF’s world rankings to maximize entries, or of using a combination of the standards and the rankings.

In an e-mail to clarify USATF’s response, Hazzard told T&FN, “As you can imagine, this is all evolving in real time. We, along with our committee members, athletes and coaches, are working together toward a solution that is best for the sport and everyone involved.”

Athletes haven’t held back. Tweeted Paul Chelimo, “Olympic Standards are out and I see no fairness here to upcoming athletes… Another example of how Track and Field is killing itself with no mercy. If this standard was in effect 2016, I would not be an Olympic Silver Medalist or an Olympian.”

More than anything, it appears that USATF is still in the process of figuring out how it will manage team selection—and how it will try to keep its No. 1 marketing property, the Olympic Trials, viable and important. The good news is that in past years USATF and the USOC have done whatever was needed to maximize the number of Team USA members. Remember that for Rio in ’16 the IAAF did away with A and B standards, instead filling the fields from the yearly lists, and that included Americans. Filling in ’20 using the world rankings should be equally simple.

With virtually no one on this side of the Atlantic welcoming the IAAF’s new qualifying system and the changes that might come in its wake, one would expect that the sport’s stakeholders are going to bring pressure to bear against USATF and the USOC, in addition to the IAAF.

Stay tuned; the story is not finished. □

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