Athletics: Suspension of Olympic qualification gets cool reception

The decision by the governing body of athletics to suspend Olympic qualification until December due to the coronavirus outbreak has received a cool reception from some Tokyo hopefuls.

World Athletics announced on Tuesday that qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, which will now take place in July and August next year, would restart on Dec. 1, subject to the global situation returning to normal.

“Pretty disappointed about this decision,” former Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Evan Jager posted on Twitter.

“Even if COVID-19 clears up in some countries and it’s safe to compete, (it) takes away a major motivation to run fast this year.

“I understand freezing the world rankings but I feel achieving the Olympic Standard should still be on the table.”

Measures to control the coronavirus have forced many athletes into self-isolation, while most major meets and marathons in the first half of the year have been postponed.

Athletes need to reach certain qualifying marks to be available for selection for the Olympics by their national federations.

The qualifying period started in 2019 and, after the suspension, will continue until the end of May for the marathon and 50 kilometre race walk, and June next year for all other events.

Jamaican middle-distance runner Aisha Praught-Leer thought the decision was premature and would affect the ability of athletes to earn sponsorship by achieving Olympic qualifying times (QT’s).

“Running for QT’s was the last modicum of hope many could cling to in 2020,” she posted on Twitter.

“Most don’t make money. Most are doing everything they can to have a shot. Why make a blanket statement when we don’t know what the future holds and remove the only lasting power an athlete has in 2020?”

Christian Taylor, twice Olympic triple jump champion, welcomed the fact that the Athletes Commission of World Athletics had been consulted over the decision but thought wider opinion should have been solicited.

“I am very disappointed that the larger athletics body was not spoken to when making this decision,” the American posted on Twitter.

“We need greater dialogue. We need transparency. We need follow through.”

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