(RUNNERS WORLD) On Sunday, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), track and field’s world governing body, announced a wave of big changes, including a two-tiered qualification system for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that will see athletes get into the Games either by time or via a world ranking.
The announcement saw many athletes take to social media to criticize or share their confusion about the changes, with U.S. stars such as Molly Huddle, Paul Chelimo, and Lauren Fleshman among those raising concern. Here’s what you need to know about the new Olympic standards, why people are upset, and how it could affect some of your favorite races and runners.
Before, athletes simply needed to run a qualifying standard time and secure selection from their national governing body—USA Track & Field (USATF) in the case of the U.S.—to earn their place at the Olympic Games. But, for the first time, world rankings will now be part of the criteria for running, with the bar set much higher for those wishing to qualify via time alone.
Each event in Tokyo will also have a designated quota—lowering the number to 45 athletes in both men’s and women’s 1500-meter, 27 in each 10,000-meter race, and 80 in each marathon—with about half the places filled by athletes who achieve the new, stricter time standards. The highest athletes on world rankings will be offered the remaining places.
But the rankings are not not just based on your best time during the designated qualification period. Points are awarded on the strength of a time, with bonus points also available that vary according to the status of the meet. (For example, a Division 1 NCAA outdoor title at 1500 meters earns athletes 60 points, the equivalent of finishing 10th in a Diamond League 1500-meter race. First place gets 200 points in a Diamond League 1500.) In events up to 1500 meters, athletes’ ranking scores are calculated from their five best results across a 12-month period from July 1, 2019, to the end of June 2020. In the 5,000 meters it’s three results, and in the 10,000 meters it’s just two.
For the marathon, rankings are calculated from a runner’s two best results; one must be in a marathon, but the other can come from a half marathon, 25K, 30K, or marathon. Athletes can also qualify by finishing top-10 at the 2019 World Championships in Doha or in a World Marathon Major (Boston, New York City, Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago, or London marathons), or finish in the top five at an IAAF Gold Label Marathon, such as the Paris, Rotterdam, or Dubai marathons. The rankings window for marathoners is longer, covering the 18 months up until May 31, 2020.
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