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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Len Johnson's take on the tough standards for the 2013 World Champs in Moscow

Len Johnson's take on the tough standards for the 2013 World Champs in Moscow

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The sound you heard

By Len Johnson
posted by rtross on November 23, 2012, 2:59pm
C/- Runners Tribe

The sound you just heard was the collective sucking in of breath as high-performance directors, coaches and athletes start to absorb the qualifying standards for next year’s world championships in Moscow.

The intake of breath may have been particularly sharp in Australia. As you will recall, we had great difficulty getting track athletes qualified for London 2012 – no men’s 100 (though Josh Ross had a B-standard) or 200 metres, no 110 metres hurdlers; no women’s 200, 400 or 800, no A-standard at 5000 (though Eloise Wellings was entered with a B).

Based on the standards just released by the IAAF Council at its Barcelona meeting, getting to Moscow will not be any easier in these events, and many other besides. No need to worry about Athletics Australia raising the bar higher, the IAAF has done it for us.

The A-standard for the men’s 100 metres is 10.15 seconds. It’s 45.28 for the 4000, 3:35.00 for the 1500, 13:15 for the 5000 and 27:40 for the 10,000. For the corresponding women’s events the standards are 11.28, 51.55, 4:05.50, 15:18 and 31:45, respectively.

The minimum B-standard for the same events are 10.21, 45.60, 3:37, 13:20, 28:05, 11.36, 52.35, 4:09, 15:24 and 32:05.

To give some measure of how the standards have tightened over the Beijing to London Olympic cycle, the B-standard for the Moscow 2013 men’s 100 is now as fast as the A-standard was for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. What was an A-standard for Beijing in the 5000 (13:21.50) would not even be a B (13:20) for Moscow.

The B-standard in the 1500 is a full two seconds faster than it was for Beijing (3:37 vs 3:39) and a full second faster than either Daegu or London.

The women’s events have not been tightened as dramatically. The A-standard in the 100 has moved from 11.32 for Beijing to 11.28 for Moscow. Both A and B-standard for the 400 remain the same now as then; the 1500 A has come down from 4:07 to 4:05.50 but the B-standard has actually gone out from 4:08 to 4:09.

It will be harder to qualify for some of our stronger field events, too. Despite what was regarded as a lacklustre year in men’s long jump – a world lead of ‘only’ 8.35 metres – the A-standard for Moscow goes out to 8.25 metres, a mark achieved by only 13 men last year; the women’s pole vault A-standard goes up to 4.60, a mark achieved by only 16 women in all of 2012.

The standards are tough, no doubt about that. What they take away in performance required to achieve an A-standard, however, they give back (somewhat) through the ability to mix A and B-standard competitors and greater consideration for area champions.

At the Olympics, a country could enter one, two or three athletes with an A-standard, or just one with a B. Back in world championships mode, however, countries may enter a mix of A and B-qualified athletes up to a maximum of three as long as that mix contains just one B-qualifier.

The whole aim of this ability to mix is to encourage participation through the easier B-standard and excellence through the tougher A-mark. Road events and the multi-events also have more attainable standards to encourage participation.

In this regard, Australia’s return to a selection policy of taking all qualified athletes is timely.

The IAAF is also making greater allowance for qualification through its other championships, through World Athletics Series events and the IAAF Gold Label marathons. The top 15 in next year’s world cross-country will be regarded as having achieved an A-standard for 10,000 metres, the top three in the Race Walking and Combined Events challenges will also be regarded as A-qualified, as will the first 10 in each of the Gold Label marathons.

Defending champions get a wild card entry, as do winners of the Diamond Race in each event.

Finally, area champions are also granted automatic right of entry. So this year’s European and African champions, for instance, are eligible for selection, regardless of standard, provided they are nominated by their federations.

Unfortunately, this is not much use for Australian athletes. The one limitation is for area championships which are run on a “restricted” basis. The Oceania championships are one such. Neither Australia, nor New Zealand sends a full-strength team, restricting selection by age. So there’s one alternative route to Moscow which is a dead-end for our athletes.

By and large, though, it appears to be a swings and roundabouts thing. After you’re knocked down by the ‘swing’, in the form of the tougher A-standards, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and run, jump or throw yourself onto the roundabout offered by more flexibility for B-qualifiers and exemptions for (non-Oceania) area champions.

Daegu 2011 had 1895 athletes from 200 countries. We’ll just have to wait and see until Moscow 2013 entries close whether the changed qualifying procedure has any significant impact on those numbers.

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