Question for all of you: If you didn't have feet, would you wear socks?
This is precisely the approach that Athletics Canada takes when setting their extraordinarily strict Olympic qualifying standards - If the athlete isn't going to compete for medals, then why send them.
Before we get into some pros/cons, let's just compare some times from 800m to the marathon, first men then women. Note: USA times are the qualifying times to reach the Olympic Trials, where they then have to make the top 3.
1) Notice the diverging trend as the distances increase. There is a WORLD of difference between someone who can run a 28:15 and 27:45 in 10,000m. Heck, at that distance even 10s is a phenomenal difference. In much the same vein that 2.0s in 1500m is a lifetime!
2) UPDATE: Since posting this blog I have been informed that the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) in the end holds the final say on standards: See HERE
Remember when you were you a kid and your older brother would steal your ball and hold it up in the air just so high that no matter how high you jumped you could never actually reach it? You'd kick & scream, call out to your mother - who would just tell you to stop 'sookin' - and eventually you'd just say 'shag this, I don't even care anymore I'm going to go pick my nose'.
Welcome to the tumultuous world of setting a bar too high.
|Better luck next time kid...|
However... and this is a BIG however... this mentality stifles the progression of so many athletes in their quest for Olympic glory. I mean it's the freaking Olympics! Every single - western - child wanted to go to the Olympics for some event at some point. Even if you are professional 10,000m runner, your greatness is essentially boiled down to your Olympic successes. You could with 3 World Championships but if you don't have the Olympic Medal then you haven't 'made it'.
Let's look at the female standard for 10,000m as the best example in futility and dream crushing:
A 32:45 (USA) vs. 31:45 (CAN)
B 34:00 (USA) vs. 32:10 (CAN)
31:45 is an absolutely ridiculous standard for the following reason... only 10 women in the WORLD have broken that time this year. Only a dozen more have broken the B standard.
*Canada has ZERO females in the 5,000m & 10,000m with only ONE male in the 5,000m (Cam Levins) & 10,000m (Mohammed Ahmed). Cam Levins - Canada's distance running saviour - has qualified for 10,000m as well, but chose to run the 5,000m.
I'm usually not one to use America as an example in many issues, but in this case USA has got it right. Set the bar high, but not so high that athletes won't even CHASE the time. That's the problem with Canada, the bar is SO HIGH that it's not even worth chasing (you might as well go pick your nose). But, when the standard (A or B) is attainable then it makes people work that much harder. Even if they do just squeak into the Olympics, the experience they will gain there will undoubtedly convert all their remaining energy in the future to become faster/stronger and come back and do it again.
|Canada's Should-Be Olympian|
* She has run 15:23.64 - under the B standard once and likely would have again had the trials not been held at altitude or if she had more competition.
* WON Canadian Olympic Trials
* Only 10 females in North America have run faster than her this year.
*What's even worse is that she was 1.7s off the ridiculous 1500m standard and decided that it wasn't even worth running the even in the Olympic Trials.
I have two final stomach-wrenching points.
|Canada's almost wasn't Olympian|
So essentially, if Cummins came 3rd at Olympic Trials.. she wouldn't be going to the Olympics because she didn't have the standard AND Jessica Smith, who has the A standard, wouldn't be going either because she didn't finish top 3. Cummins' bronze would have meant she stood on the podium and crushed someone else's dream... Nothing against Cummins' as she wanted to be the best she could be, but the process is incredibly absurd.
*Note: this is why USA has separate Olympic trials for athletes who already have the standard and the top 3 make the team.
2) WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU HOLD OLYMPIC TRIALS AT ALTITUDE (Calgary, AB)?!? You automatically give athletes who are on the bubble ZERO chance to reach the standard. It's absolutely absurd and Athletics Canada needs a wake up call if they want to actually 'Own the Podium'. If you don't send athletes then they certainly have no chance of winning their country a medal.
Aye yi yi......
See you next week for a look into the USA 5,000m & 10,000m hopefuls!