Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Convoluted Selection Process

I love scanning through the "Today's Headlines" section of the Track & Field News home page. It's so low-tech that it's quaint. Still, it is Track & Field News, so it's guaranteed to contain only the most relevant news on the internet. While scanning the headlines just now, I noticed a particularly interesting headline: Jonathan Johnson Still Hoping For Osaka 800 Berth.

Since Johnson finished 4th at the Nationals (only the top 3 in each event go to the world championships), I was curious to find out how he planned on pulling off such a feat.

Of course! The issue of the A/B standard rears its ugly head again. Duane Solomon, who finished third in the race, hasn't met the "A" standard of 1:45.40 required in the men's 800m run by the IAAF for an athlete to qualify for Osaka. If Solomon doesn't reach that standard, but Johnson does, then Solomon stays home and Johnson goes.

I can understand the point of having minimum qualifying standards at national championships, the world championships and the Olympic Games. Elite events such as these with no standards would attract all kinds of athletes who wouldn't be competitive. It's really just a matter of administrative efficiency and marketing. Why have endless qualifying rounds just to sort out the athletes who are virtually pre-determined to be in the finals anyway? Having all of those heats would do nothing but tire all of the athletes, including the elite ones, causing the finals to be anti-climactic. Anti-climactic finals don't do anything for the ratings.

But, if athletes like Johnson can circumvent the selection process, what's the point of have qualifying meets like the national championships in the first place? We either need to do away with the national championships altogether and select the best three athletes in each event based on their times/marks in other meets, or else we need to select only the winners of those meets and not allow any circumventions of the process.

There's something to be said for doing it either way. What is your opinion?

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