Unlike most of the other top athletic countries America has this very straightforward way for it athletes (both track and field) to qualify for the Olympics, i.e. you have to be fit on the day of the trials, run, throw or jump the qualification mark and you have to hope you don’t have an off day! Does this approach guarantee America will be sending their strongest team to London? I suspect the answer to this is no but it most definitely makes it very interesting. Is it fair? Probably not, but the athletes know the rules so they have to try and plan their season accordingly. And when you consider that America are arguably the world’s strongest athletics country, they are probably in as good position as any to have such a qualification system.
With the London Olympics late July the Marathon trials are taken place a sufficient time in advance to allow those that qualify to be able to give their best come the big race. It does however mean they have to be fit this weekend. Would it be fair if Ryan Hall (the winner of the trial prior to the last Olympics) or Kara Goucher (America’s top female marathon runner) was carrying an injury and decided he/she was not fit to run this weekend but the injury was such that they would be perfectly fit come July? Again no, but that’s the American system.
The other athletics event trials take place approximately a month before the Olympics so at least the chance of an athlete n
ot being fit enough for the trials but fit enough for the Olympics is reduced. But that said there have been instances of sprinters who on the days of the trials have a niggling injury which have meant they miss out on the Olympics even if they have previously run faster than anybody in the field or even the world!
The American approach at least takes away any controversy over team selection. In many other countries they may have 4 or 5 athletes who have all met the Olympic qualification requirements and usually a committee has to then decide which three will go, often resulting in some very upset athletes!
So if you are watching or following the Marathon Trials on Saturday consider the pressure many of these athletes are facing……..but hey it makes for good viewing!
David ‘The Running Scotsman in Toronto’