IAAF Bombshell Defused, Top-3 at US Olympic Team Trials Make the US Team

Photo: An early turn in the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials with eventual US team members Jared Ward and Galen Rupp (back right) visible. Photo by MickFoto/NERunner

As covered in the May/June issue of NER, the IAAF dropped a bombshell on March 10 with the announcement of drastic reductions in the qualifying times needed for the Tokyo Olympic Games.


For the marathon the men’s standard went from 2:19:00 to 2:11:30 and for the women from 2:45:00 to 2:29:30. Most of our regional runners would be effected here while the reductions also extended to track distances.


In our estimation, this was done after a nudge from the IOC, which is actively looking to reduce both marathoners and track & field athletes to open room for more sports (read: more sponsorship $) having already given the green light to skate boarding, sports climbing, softball, etc.


With the US Olympic Marathon Team Trials slated for Atlanta on Feb. 29, 2020, on a course with hills and the possibility of both heat and humidity, the announcement came as extremely bad news for Trials RD Rich Kenah, who saw the move as quashing any idea that a worthy yet unsung athlete could make the US team on one special day, certainly a draw for both athletes, media and spectators.


Here’s the workaround: In addition to qualifying by running 2:11:30 (men) or 2:29:00 (women) a top-5 placement in any IAAF Gold Label Marathon (outside of the World Marathon Majors there are 10) would do the trick.


Well, now there are 11 Gold Label Marathons as the US Olympic Trials course has been given special exemption as a Gold Medal Marathon (exemption as, among other things, the Trials course has never been used). Regardless, this assures that the top-3 men and women across the line in Atlanta will comprise the US team, same as always. Amen to that.

Photo: The recent IAAF announcement is good news to athletes like 2:24 marathoner Jonas Hampton (MA). Photo by FitzFoto/NERunner

Below is the official USATF Release:

USATF is pleased to announce that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), granted its request to extend the conditions for granting a Gold Label for 2020 Olympic Trials – Marathon men’s and women’s qualification – on an exceptional basis.


The announcement of the Tokyo 2020 Qualification System in March presented challenges to USATF and its partners as planning for marathon trials had begun well before the changes to the qualification system were announced.  USATF has been proactive in attempts to find a solution and is pleased with the resolution.


In the communique to the federation, the IAAF noted that athlete preparation, pre-existing commercial commitments and TV broadcast arrangements were key factors in the decision.


In a Gold Label Marathon race, athletes who finish in the top 5 of the event are considered to have achieved the qualifying standard for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. As such, in Atlanta, the top three men and women place finishers over the 26.2 mile course will be nominated to the Team USATF Olympic roster.


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