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Blake backs World Athletics - Olympic qualification period suspended until December 1

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2020 | 12:00 AMDaniel Wheeler/ Gleaner Writer
Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson wins the women’s 200-metre final at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ahead of Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands. Thompson clocked 21.78 seconds, while Schippers was second in 21.88.

Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association President Dr Warren Blake says the move to revise the Olympic qualification period for athletics allows for a levelling of the playing field for athletes to continue their Olympic aspirations.

World Athletics, in a release yesterday, announced the suspension of the current qualification period for the Tokyo Olympics effective April 6 to November 30. This means that any results obtained during this period will not count towards the athletes’ chances of competing in the games which have been rescheduled to July 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Qualification will resume December 1 until the latest June 29, 2021 “subject to the global situation returning to normal.”

Worldwide, up to late yesterday, more than 1.4 million persons have tested positive for the virus. Of those, over 301,800 have recovered while there have been 81,978 deaths.

Blake says that the decision to revise the qualification period was the best the world body could make to prevent athletes from gaining an unfair advantage.

Levelling the Field

“If there were competitions going on in some places in the world, then only those athletes would get ranked and the ranking system would end up electing people based on whether or not you have coronavirus in your country,” Blake told The Gleaner. “This is why it was important to just have a level field where everybody starts over from the same period. It’s not the ultimate solution, but it’s the best that can be done given the circumstances.”

World Athletics confirmed that those who have already met the qualifying standard for the Games since the previous period will be eligible for selection by their member associations combined with those who have qualified during the additional period.

The 2020 track and field season has effectively been suspended as a result of the virus, which has already resulted in the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics as well as the Diamond League season which has seen its first six competitions rescheduled. These include meets in China and Italy where there have been large numbers of infections and casualties.

Restructuring Training

Blake says that coaches may be inclined to end their seasons early and restructure their groundwork training usually reserved for late fall but doesn’t see any significant effects as everyone would be preparing under the same conditions

“What they [World Athletics] are saying is some people might shut down their season to start up again for next year. So when you start back up again for next year, you would hopefully pick up where you left off this year,” he said. “You would still end up with roughly the same period between the end of the year and the Olympics.”

Swept Track Club coach Okeil Stewart says that the revised period will affect how members of his camp prepare and any adjustments made won’t be made collectively.

“We will look at where they (athletes) are, look at their development and see what they need to do and then draft their programme to suit the set-up for next year,” he said. The adjustment will not have any effect on World Championship 400m hurdles bronze medallist Rushell Clayton who is coached by Stewart. Clayton gained the qualifying standard in Doha last year.