Wed | Oct 28, 2020

Coaches rue World Athletics rule changes

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:10 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
National triple jumper Shanieka Ricketts.
National triple jumper Shanieka Ricketts.

Sprintec Track Club head coach Maurice Wilson and jumping coach Kerry Lee Rickets are concerned about the possibility of change to track and field events in major championships.

World Athletics released rule modifications, on September 28, that are set to take effect next year. Among them is the revised Technical Rule One which says that the World Championships and Olympic Games are now considered competitions where events may be held in an alternate format.

Diamond League organisers recently piloted the “Final Three” long jump format on August 23, where the top three athletes would contest a one round “mini-final” to determine the winner. The format was met with mostly negative reviews from athletes.

Wilson said that if such changes are made at major championships, it will affect the integrity of the competition.

“I think that it’s going to take away the competitive spirit of the game,” he said. “I’m not in support of it. After the athletes qualify and get to the final round, I do believe that the format that has always been there [should] remain the same because it shows the competitiveness of the athlete.”

The final three format debuted at the Diamond League meet in Stockholm, Sweden, where World Championship bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai of South Africa won the event in a season’s best distance of 8.09m. However, Sweden’s Thobias Montler had the best jump of 8.13m after the traditional five rounds. Montler could only jump 8.06m in the final three.

The long jump format is the latest changes that have been made to this year’s Diamond League season which saw the 200m, 3,000m steeplechase, triple jump, and discus throw excluded from the Diamond League final. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has caused major revisions to the 2020 season which ended on September 25 in Doha, Qatar.

Ricketts, who coaches World Championship triple jump silver medallist Shanieka Ricketts, says that the changes already made to the sport, specifically field events, could result in low participation from athletes.

“Athletes [who do other disciplines may] not consider doing field events and persons who do field events may walk away from the sport because if you can’t compete at the highest competition level outside of the Olympics and World Championships, which is Diamond League, that’s already a big factor,” Ricketts said. “And now you are going to be told that when you go to World Championships, it’s not who actually has the biggest jump of the competition, it’s who has the biggest jump in the [play-off format]? It’s ridiculous!”

While World Athletics officials are citing the changes as attempts to be innovative and to attract more viewers to the sport, Wilson has concerns that the changes are being pushed towards the less popular events without feedback from stakeholders.

“I don’t believe that it is something that should be pushed on the spectators or the athletes,” he said. “I believe that it should be introduced at a lower level and then gradually expand it if necessary. There should be no changes that the participants and the spectators don’t have a chance to have a say in.”

The Athletics Association, an independent body advocating for the rights of global athletes, tweeted that it intends to speak to World Athletics to gain clarity about the changes.