Omanyala, Yego lead protests over new World Athletics qualifying standards

Ferdinand Omanyala

Gold medallist Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala celebrates after winning the men's 100m final athletics event at the Alexander Stadium, in Birmingham on day six of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, central England, on August 3, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Glyn Kirk | AFP

What you need to know:

  • World Athletics have shortened times for most track events as well as increased the distances in field events save for men's 400m and women's 800m where it has eased the the standards
  • As was the case in 2019 and 2022, athletes will be able to qualify for the World Championships by achieving an entry standard or through their World rankings
  • Omanyala said the bar is a bit too far for some athletes to meet

The qualifying standards published on Friday by the World Athletics for the World Athletics Championships due for August 19 to 27 in Budapest, Hungary next year, continue to illicit mixed reactions.

However, most athletes and coaches say it will be a tall order to achieve them.

World Athletics have shortened times for most track events as well as increased the distances in field events save for men's 400m and women's 800m where it has eased the the standards compared to the World Athletics Championships held last month in Oregon, United States. 

The men's qualifying time for Oregon was 44.90 seconds, but the time has been reviewed to 45.00 sec, while the women's time has been put at 1:59.80 from Oregon's 1:59.50.

The men and women's 20 kilometres race walk and marathon qualifying times have been reduced.

As was the case in 2019 and 2022, athletes will be able to qualify for the World Championships by achieving an entry standard or through their World rankings. 

The qualification period for the marathon and 35km race walk opened on December 1, 2021 and ends on May 30, 2023. 

For the 10,000m, 20km race walk and combined events, the window runs from January 31, 2022 until July 30, 2023. 

For all other disciplines, the qualification period is July 31, 2022 to July 30, 2023. 

Athletics Kenya head coach Julius Kirwa, Africa, Commonwealth Games 100m champion Ferdinand Omanyala and Commonwealth Games javelin bronze medallist Julius Yego said that it will be a tall order to achieve some of the standards set.

"For instance, the 51.00sec set in women's 400m will be achieved by a handful of athletes. Africa will be most hit," said Kirwa, adding that women will be the most affected. 

Kirwa noted that only 34 women have achieved that time in 400m this year including one from Africa, Kenya's Mary Moraa, who posted 50.84 sec in June, which is outside the qualifying period. 

"I don't know the logic of the times and distances set but they will have to reconsider them," explained Kirwa pointing out that it's only Edward Zakayo who meets the 10,000m time of 27:10.00.

Kirwa said not even Daniel Simiu and Kibiwott Kandie who returned personal best times of 27:12.26 and 27:20.34 to settle for silver and bronze at the Commonwealth Games attained that time. 

"No athlete attained that time even at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon," said Kirwa. "It will simply discourage many athletes and that isn't growing the sport. It will continue to push many to road racing."

Omanyala said the bar is a bit too far for some athletes to meet.

"This year, we have only 25 going under 10 seconds and 11 are Americans. That means the rest of world has to put in the work," said Omanyala, who hopes to attain the set standards in the coming races.

"That means that Athletics Kenya has to put in more electronic races for our athletes to have a chance of qualifying," explained Omanyala. 

Yego noted that the move by World Athletics might have been informed by many athletes around the globe having  beaten that distance over the last few years in javelin.

"Most of them are coming outside Europe unlike before," said Yego, adding that it now calls for serious training program and many pre competitions.

"Africa will be the most disadvantaged because few athletes get the chance to compete in many events," explained Yego.

World Athletics has offered defending world champions wild card entry, as will the winners of the 2022 Diamond League, World Race Walking Tour and World Combined Events Tour.

The leading hammer performers on the Continental Tour will get wild cards but this is all subject to selection by the athlete's national federation. 

Area champions in selected disciplines and subject to certain conditions, top-five finishers at Platinum Label marathons during the qualification period and winners of Gold Label marathons held in 2023 shall also be considered as having achieved the entry standard. 

The number of athletes in some events has been adjusted, compared to 2022. Most noticeable is in the field events, where the number has been increased from 32 to 36. 

The mile – both in-stadium and road mile – will now be a qualifying event for the 1500m, while performances achieved on the road in the 5km and 10km will be eligible for qualification in the 5,000m and 10,000m, respectively.

In addition, the top eight athletes in the world cross country rankings not otherwise qualified through other pathways will be considered qualified for the 10,000m.

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