Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Laurie Foster | I support a World Under-21 Champs

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2020 | 12:16 AM

The die has been cast in the sporting arena with a mix of responses concerning the fate of the various competitions scheduled for this year. With the unceasing global march of the COVID-19 pandemic, the verdicts vary from postponed to cancelled or, in a small minority, it is business as usual. Following that, and even more varied, are the ways in which the stakeholders in each discipline have reacted to the announcements.

As each of us, not necessarily journalists only, looks to examine the future of a favourite sport, views expressed may be the most viable options for the administrators to consider. In that regard, those who are empowered to make the decisions should be well advised to pay close attention to the thoughts expressed by knowledgeable fans. Who can tell that the most workable situation does not lie within those ranks?

Two of the events to which attention is drawn are the 2020 Olympics, previously scheduled for Tokyo in July, and the World Under-20 Championships in Athletics for Nairobi earlier in the same month. The more prestigious is the Olympics which is staged every four years.

This has been pushed back to the corresponding period in 2021, although it will retain the name of Tokyo 2020. A variety of players in the multi-sport event have expressed views, most citing the difficulties involved in keeping the athletes in proper shape to do justice to their talents, having had their preparation halted for an elongated period. It is hoped that when the change of dates sink in, the athletes and their handlers will conclude that what has been decided will be in the best interests of the former and fall in line. This health crisis, of which the world is still unsure as far as its intensity is concerned, is already a horrifying one. Foster’s Fairplay feels that the right decision was taken. No one should want a return to a situation, as last existed in 1944, when the year is just removed from the Olympics calendar.

Regarding the World Under-20s, the matter is of added complexity. A postponement until next year will mean that many athletes would lose eligibility because of age. One of these would be Jamaica’s medal prospect, Kevona Davis. She has been most unfortunate over the last two years, in not being able to compete at the international level on account of injury restrictions. This year was her final chance in the Under-20 groupings and to have the event set back a year, as with Tokyo, is most likely to be yet another major disappointment.


In order to address this dilemma, there was published recently a theory by a very highly esteemed track and field analyst, Hubert Lawrence. He has suggested that the six-day event be put off until 2021, as is the case with the Olympics. Further to that, and to accommodate Davis and any others who were preparing for this year’s competition, it should be renamed as an Under-21 competition on a one-off basis, with the age format returning to its proper title and age cohort for the 2022 edition. Brilliant!

What Lawrence did not say, but it should be recognised, is that following the rules of World Athletics, any marks set by athletes will be listed in the age group that such athlete falls. To further illustrate this, the 18-year-old Briana Williams, while still an Under-20-listed athlete in 2021, would not be denied a world junior mark should it have been achieved in senior competition.

Nothing else needs to be said other than to ask the world governing body to take a look at Lawrence’s suggestion and come up with the view that it provides a solution that sounds a lot more than just reasonable.

One cannot imagine what there is to lose.

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