American Olympic Trials. Fair or unfair?

Posted: Jan 11, 2012 In: News & Updates With: 3 comments

This weekend sees the American Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston where the top American Marathon runners will aim to place in the first three and qualify for the London Olympics.

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’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

David Hiddleston

I am a keen amateur runner having completed (barely in some cases!) nine marathon the first five of which happened to be the Big Five - London (2006), New York (2007), Boston (2008), Berlin (2008) and Chicago (2009). I currently hold the Guinness World Record for running a half marathon dressed as a Mascot (i.e. Jefferson the Dog) and have recently completed a 45 and 45 where when I turned 45 I decided to run 45 races before my next birthday. Note - my views and opinions are mine alone and do not represent those of MyNextRace.

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3 Comments

  • Reply

    Peter Donato

    Event Year:2012
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    the better option for a marathoner who is ranked in the top 5 and has to miss the trials would be a future 10km or half marathon to show fitness, like 45-60 days hence. This way, a freak injury or ill timed cold or flu would not prevent a heavy favourite from missing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity such as the Olympics.

    I was in New York when the men raced in fall 2007 and it was thrilling to say the least, seeing Ryan blow away the field but then very sad in the Press Room after when Mary Wittenburg announced that Ryan Shea had collapsed and died after the 5km mark.

  • Reply

    Bill B

    Event Year:2012
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    I think arguments can be made on both sides whether the US system is fair or not. You will never have a system that is perfect. However, having the trials certainly adds a lot of excitement to the Sport. US elite marathoning is in a resurgence right now and there is so much depth. Other than Ryan Hall, I wouldn’t be betting on anyone else making the team, making it an exciting race to tune in to.

  • Pingback: “To TRIAL or NOT-to-TRIAL”? 2012 set to take off with a BANG this weekend in Houston! | Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

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