Road To The Olympic Games


IOC releases rewritten path to Tokyo, with already-qualified athletes still in

About 6,500 athletes who already have earned their spots for the Tokyo Games are in for 2021 under redrawn qualifying regulations published Tuesday by the International Olympic Committee.

Committee urges sport federations to find fairest possible qualification guidelines

Canada's Mohammed Ahmed leads the 5,000-metre pack at the Canadian track championships in July. On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee clarified new qualification guidelines for the Tokyo Games, allowing already-qualified athletes to keep their spots. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

About 6,500 athletes who already have earned their spots for the Tokyo Games are in for 2021 under redrawn qualifying regulations published Tuesday by the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC released its rewritten roadmap for qualifying for the games, which were rescheduled due to the coronavirus. They'll be held July 23 through Aug. 8 next year.

The new deadline for qualifying is June 29, 2021, and entry lists are due a week later. Individual international sports federations will still be in charge of their qualifying procedures.

Many sports allow athletes to qualify by compiling results over a series of events. The IOC urged the federations to find a balance "between protecting those athletes who were close to qualifying based on the previous 2020 deadlines and also ensuring the best athletes at the Olympic Games" by taking into consideration performances in 2021.

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The IOC announcement confirmed reports last week that the sports had agreed to let athletes keep spots they already had earned. It clarified a number of points, including the need for boxing to relax a rule that sets the top age in the sport at 40. It also requires sports such as gymnastics to decide whether to allow athletes who would've been too young to compete in 2020 to try to be eligible for 2021.

The IOC also said "athlete health is the guiding principle in the scheduling of any remaining Olympic qualification events." It urged sports not to confirm rescheduling until the impacts of COVID-19 can be assessed.

Along those lines, World Athletics announced it was shutting down all qualifying procedures through Nov. 30. Its new window for qualifying will run from Dec. 1 through June 29, 2021.

World Athletics announces changes

Earlier Tuesday, World Athletics said suspended Olympic qualification because of the coronavirus pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021.

The governing body of track says no performances between April 5 and Nov. 30 will count toward Olympic qualification even if an athlete meets the standards.

The new period will run from Dec. 1 through to either May 31 or June 29.

The organization made the decision because it fears competitions will resume much earlier in some parts of the world than others and that will leave some athletes with more opportunities to qualify than others.

World Athletics also said it was placing 50 per cent of the staff at its Monaco headquarters on furlough. They will receive full pay under a Monaco government scheme.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe says the body "will focus only on business critical activities for the short term which will help us manage our cashflow effectively and protect jobs in the long term."

Impact hits Canadian marathoners

Marathoners are the hardest hit because of the number of races that are traditionally held in the fall, such as the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 18, or races that were postponed to the fall due to COVID-19, including the Boston Marathon, which was pushed back to Sept. 14, and the London Marathon, which is now scheduled for Oct. 4.

"I didn't see this coming," said Reid Coolsaet.

The two-time Olympian had planned to run in Toronto, but may instead race at either Fukuoka, Japan where he ran the fastest time of his career — two hours 10 minutes 55 seconds — in 2016, or at Valencia, Spain. Both races are Dec. 6.

Fukuoka, Valencia and the Jan. 17 marathon in Houston should be packed full of marathoners aiming to qualify.

"Here's the thing. If I feel like I can run 2:11.30 [Canada's men's qualifying standard], I almost don't want to do it in October or November," Coolsaet said. "I'm not going to come back in a month or two and do it again.

"I would love to run Toronto and if I feel like training is at a place where I'd realistically run 2:13 or 2:14, something like that, then I would just run Toronto. But if I really do feel I have a good shot at the Olympics, then that would change things."

Coolsaet said the decision affects about a half dozen Canadian men's marathoners.

Canadian marathon runner Reid Coolsaet said the World Athletics suspension of Olympic qualifying could affect six male national team members. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The women's team is tougher to crack. Dayna Pidhoresky locked up her spot by winning the Canadian title at the Toronto marathon last fall, while Malindi Elmore and Rachel Cliff both ran fast times in the past few months that will be tough to beat, including Elmore's Canadian record of 2:24.50 set in January.

Kinsey Middleton, who is chasing Canada's top women, posted on Twitter on Tuesday: "My hope would be that if it's safe enough to put on a race (in the fall), then the athletes should be granted the opportunity to have the time at that race count. If it's not safe to race at all till Dec 1st, then this ruling makes sense. If races still occur, it doesn't seem fair."

There is also no guarantee that the fall races will be held as scheduled.

"When they postponed Boston, I was like, 'Oh, that's good, we'll have Boston in September," Coolsaet said. "Now I'm thinking like, are we going to be able to have so many people congregate in one area? It doesn't look great."

The suspension of qualifying does take the pressure off track and field athletes, who would have wanted to race this summer if possible but haven't been able to train amid the global pandemic.

"But when I think of what I want to try to accomplish [a third Olympic appearance]... if people can train in October, November and it's safe to have races even if they're not mass participation races, then that would be a shame if you could do something and it wouldn't be allowed," Coolsaet said.

"But everything is so speculative at this point, I guess I don't really feel that much emotion about the decision because it might be a moot point anyway by September, October."

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