Tough road to the Worlds and Olympics for Indian athletes

The IAAF has released its qualification system for next year’s World Championships in Doha and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and the hard road to these two majors will be mainly through the world rankings system.

Asian Games champion Neeraj Chopra should not have a problem qualifying for the Worlds since he is a regular in Diamond League and ranked high in the world rankings.   -  PTI

The ‘one-meet wonders’, who stay in hiding for a major part of the season and then show up with a stunning performance to make the cut for major athletics championships, will have to change their strategies for the next couple of years.

The IAAF, athletics’ world body, has now released its qualification system for next year’s World Championships in Doha and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and the hard road to these two majors will be mainly through the world rankings system.

Points will be given for every performance (based on the IAAF scoring table) and Indian athletes will now have to compete in many international meets and come up with at least five strong performances during the one-year ranking-cum-qualification period to make the grade.

Read: A peep into IAAF's ranking system

Of course, athletes can still make the cut by achieving the entry standard but that will be considered only in cases where there are exceptional performances. That could mean that the entry standards, which will be announced on November 1, are likely to be very tough this time. And athletes who achieve them could come under close scrutiny and may also have to endure an anxious wait before the final nod is given by the world body after filling up the slots through the special world rankings system.

The IAAF announced the qualification system for the Worlds — which will run from September 28 to October 6 in Qatar next year — on Friday and the qualification period runs from September 7 this year to September 6, 2019. But for select events like the 10,000m, marathon, race walks, relays and combined events, the qualification period began on March 7.

NO DIRECT BERTH FOR ASIAN CHAMPIONS

The area champions (Asian, European, African, etc.) were offered a direct berth to the Worlds in the past but that will not be the case this time though performances in the last area championships will be counted towards the world rankings (if they are among the athlete’s best scores) even if they are held outside the one-year qualification period.

“That will take the charm out of the Asian championships, the big stars may not take part,” C. K. Valson, the secretary of the Athletics Federation of India, told Sportstar on Saturday. “The IAAF gave a direct entry to the Asian champion (and other area champions) to the Worlds after it realised that the top stars were skipping these meets. Now, the top stars will only compete in world-class meets. Anyway, I will take to my counterparts in Europe and other associations and try to get more clarity on this new rule.”

The entry standards had been the main criteria in the past but now the world rankings will matter more to fill up the target number (of berths) fixed for each individual event. Every country can field three qualified athletes and one reserve but in special cases, where World champions have been given wild cards, four may be allowed to compete. The IAAF has also offered wild cards to the reigning outdoor champion, 2019 Diamond League winner and the leader of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, Race Walk Challenge and the Combined Events Challenge.

In the case of the relays, the top 10 finishers (12 in mixed 4x400m event) from the 2019 IAAF World Relays will qualify. The world rankings will be considered to fill up the other slots in the relays which will be a 16-team affair.