World Athletics released the standards for next year’s World Championships in Budapest (three weeks after the window to qualify opened) and let’s just say the people are RATTLED! It will now take dudes a sub-10 second 100m to rest on their laurels. Or in the women’s 10,000m, it’ll take 30:40 or faster — something only four Americans have ever done!
This isn’t just some brash overreaction to the existence of super shoes. World Athletics is going to shove the rankings system down our throats no matter how badly we don’t want it! The intention has been for fields to be split 50-50 in terms of how they qualify for the major championships: half on time, half on ranking. As the bar has steadily been raised each year, athletes keep elevating their game to meet them and thus that dream ratio hasn’t yet been met.
So now, rather than inching it a bit higher, the expectations have been raised by a solid foot. The question now becomes whether athletes will just try to run that much faster or if they’ll start picking and choosing races more carefully as to game the system and bolster their rankings. If the quality of the team the US sent to NACAC is any indication, I think we may see more of the latter.
My main gripe with this system is that it continues to overcomplicate the logistics for bubble athletes and has no noticeable impact on the athletes who matter most to the marketability of the sport— the stars. Sydney McLaughlin won’t have any added incentive to run the Diamond League circuit with an added emphasis on World Rankings — she’ll race once to clobber the standard. But we will still probably see a number of smaller countries choose to not send athletes who “only” qualify on points.
The infrastructure of the sport should be designed to encourage regular head-to-head competition amongst the best athletes, not the 48th fastest ones.
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