Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | Picking the team

Published:Thursday | July 14, 2016 | 12:03 AM


It seems simple enough. To pick an international team, just replicate championship conditions as best possible with a Trial meet and pick those who go 1-2-3 once they all have met the qualifying standard. Viewed like that, picking the team is easy.

A decade ago, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) put in a provision to save the country from going to battle without elite athletes who fell ill or became injured. Few knew about it until that two weeks ago when Usain Bolt, Hansle Parchment, Janieve Russell and Elaine Thompson all applied for this medical exemption from the 2016 National Championships.

However, as the dust settled, acceptance has grown. Now everybody knows athletes ranked in the world's top three can be granted sick leave from the Trials AND still be selected if they prove that they are firing on all cylinders again.

The non-selection of Jason Morgan introduces something new. Usually, when the top three haven't all met the qualifying standard, the selector scrolls down to those athletes who do to staff out the roster.




Instead, Morgan, a 2012 Olympian in the discus, has apparently been bumped because of a long running sequence where he has fallen short of his qualifying throws.

A differential between qualifying marks and championship performances is common for discus throwers. They routinely gather at early season meets where wind conditions help the disc to fly.

The outcome is that the top end of the all-time performance list is populated by throws that take place in meets that are staged away from closed stadiums, where major championships are always held.

The world record - 74.08 metres - should perhaps be exempted from this analysis because it was set by an East German during an era now recognised for drug 'bandooloo' by East Germany.

However, the athlete who many consider the best discus thrower ever - Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania - is a good case in point. He also has the second longest throw of all time at 73.88 and the longest ever in a championship held inside a stadium.

The latter mark came on his last throw - 70.17 metres - at the 2005 World Championships.

No one else has ever exceeded 70 metres in the Olympics or a World Championship.

By contrast, 22 men, other than Alekna, have thrown longer distances throughout the history of the sport, but not at the Worlds or the Olympics.

The JAAA selection policy has evolved over time, from a strict adherence to the 1-2-3 finish, to 1-2 and a selector's choice for the number three slot, with a requirement for the athlete to maintain "competitive fitness" once selected.

That last one came on the books in 2000 and was used to adjudicate the contentious Merlene Ottey-Peta-Gaye Dowdie 100-metre selection dilemma.

Another key one is the use of performances from the prior season as a selection criteria.

That supports the medical exemption clause in an obvious way, but doesn't not allow the exemption seeker to use performances in 2014 to qualify for the 2016 Olympic team.

Old history shouldn't keep Morgan off the team either.

- HUBERT LAWRENCE attended the Olympic Games in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.