How I (almost) Qualified for the World Championships

1. Context

At first glance, the qualification criteria set out by the IAAF for the World championships was very similar to years prior. Hit the time standard (1500m in 3:36.20) before the deadline (August 10th), and you’re eligible. Each federation then chooses to either adopt the IAAF criteria as is, or add stipulations. Back in the fall, Athletics Canada announced that in order for Canadians to qualify, they would have to not only hit the standard, but they would have to do so much earlier than the deadline set out by the IAAF (AC deadline was July 5th, more than a month early). You would also have to place in the top 3 at the national championships in order to be eligible. While we knew that an earlier deadline would mean fewer opportunities to qualify, we (seemingly) accepted the criteria, and adjusted our schedules to best set us up to hit the standard in time. All fine and dandy.

Skip forward a month or two, and the IAAF then releases an amendment to the qualification criteria. It was announced that on August 10th, if not enough athletes had hit the IAAF standard, and they still had room in the field (ex. Size of the field for the 1500m is set at 45 athletes), they would offer invitations to the next fastest athletes on the list without standard. When we saw this new rule, one of my teammates spoke to an official at Athletics Canada, and was told that AC would NOT be honoring the IAAF invitations unless you achieved a fast enough time before the AC deadline of July 5th. Again, all fine and dandy, so long as we know that these are the rules.

Skip forward a few more months. We’re out in Edmonton at the national championships on July 5th, and NOBODY in the 1500m has hit the IAAF standard on time (nor has anybody run fast enough to even get an IAAF invitation). As far as we’re concerned, there’s very little at stake in the race, since nobody’s going to World’s anyway. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all trying to win for the sake of winning a national title, but coming 2nd and 3rd did not offer the consolation of being eligible for worlds. I can’t speak for everyone in the field, but personally, my mindset was “race for the title, but once it’s over, it’s time to shift your focus to next summer and Rio.”

A week later, I flew to Belgium, and got into the fastest race of my life. I placed fifth in 3:36.85, a pretty big personal best, and a time that’s less than a second away from the Olympic qualifier. I wasn’t the only Canadian to run fast that day, as Chuck PT and Nate Brannen ran 3:34 and 3:35, both achieving the world and Olympic standard.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In (what I assume was a) response to the public reaction, AC issues a statement saying that they changed their minds, and WILL ACCEPT IAAF INVITATIONS. However, they will only accept them if AC believes the invited athlete has a chance of making the final at worlds. The metric they decided to use to determine who could make the final was to be in the top half of the entries (ie. for the 1500m, that would mean you’d have to be ranked 23 or higher).

2. The Current Situation

Here’s a breakdown of the Canadians who did not initially qualify for Worlds, but will be receiving an invitation from the IAAF. The number on the left denotes the athletes world rank*. An “X” denotes top half of the field, and therefore within AC’s new (ability to make the final) criteria:

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 11.15.02 AM

(information based on this website: (http://toplist.leichtathletik-mehrkampf.de)

*This ranking is not a true world ranking. Each country can only be represented on this list a max of 3 times per event.*

This means that 11 Canadians will receive an invitation to compete at Worlds (myself included), but AC will not honor it because they do not see the value in sending someone to worlds unless they’re capable of making the final. 

Before I air my thoughts on why AC’s decision is wrong and short-sighted, I’ll say that I’m obviously incredibly biased. A completely open-qualification process would mean that I could be competing at the World championships at the end of the month. However, I’m not advocating to personally be on the team. I’m tired, I’ve had a long season, and I’m ready for a break. Because of the initial criteria, I was forced to try and chase standard early and often in the season, so it’s now August and I’m spent. I’m actually just writing this post to air my thoughts and hope for change with future criteria. I guess I’m bitter because maybe, had we known earlier that AC WOULD end up honoring the IAAF invitations, more emphasis would have been placed on running fast in July as opposed to chasing times in May and June. I was honestly a little surprised to run 3:36 given how long I had been tapering for.

But how can only taking athletes “with a shot at making the final” be a good decision? Aside from a lack of resources (which, if that is in fact the case, then I am much more okay with the situation), there’s no reason to NOT field a full team.

  1. The experience an athlete gains by competing at a World championship is invaluable, especially leading into an Olympic year. How are you supposed to make the final at the Olympics next year without first having experienced a major games? I’d love to see the data of the amount of 1500m runners who have made the final in their first world or olympic championships. I bet the number is very small.
  2. Bigger teams= better for the sport. Every athlete comes from a different background, from different schools, and part of track clubs with younger athletes who look up to and keep up with the athletes who qualify for Worlds. Sending more athletes can only help grow the sport in this country.
  3. Somewhat similar to point 1, but some of the athletes getting an invitation are young, and very very likely to qualify for the olympics next year. Take Gabriela Stafford for example. Judging by her improvement curve, she’ll probably be in Rio next year without any major games experience.

In the end, I’m happy that Athletics Canada at the very least decided to expand the team to accommodate a few more people. Even though I’d (of course) love to be at Worlds with the team, I’m still beyond excited to watch friends and teammates race in Beijing at the end of the month. I’m also very satisfied with my own season, having run PB’s in the 800 and 1500, and am already pretty freaking psyched about the coming year.

To end my rant, here’s a tweet by Steve Magness that sums up my thoughts pretty good:

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 10.42.31 AM

Ninove Start Line

Start line in Ninove, Belgium. 26 people (2 rows) on a 6 lane track. 

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One Response to How I (almost) Qualified for the World Championships

  1. Pingback: Bottom’s Up: A Toast to Chasing Goals | Sasha Gollish

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