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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Olympic Selection Trials & Nationals held separately

Olympic Selection Trials & Nationals held separately

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Olympic athletics trials moved forward
ABC Online
April 15, 2011

For the first time since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the Australian track and field selection trials will be held separately from the national championships next year.

Coaches have had their wishes granted with the trials to be held at the new Victorian State Athletics Centre at Albert Park on March 2-4, the weekend before the world indoor championships in Istanbul.

The nationals are from April 13-15 in Melbourne, but participation is optional for those already selected for the Olympic team.

This gives Australia's best medal hopes such as Steve Hooker, Sally Pearson and Dani Samuels the chance to take a break before moving into their final preparation phase for the London Games starting on July 27.

"It makes a huge difference," Athletics Australia national high performance manager Eric Hollingsworth said on Friday.

"It's not necessarily about qualification.

"It's being able to get our top athletes to support the domestic season, fulfil their responsibilities as athletes to Australia but also give them enough to re-set before the London Games.

"The top coaches work to very specific timings.

"Being able to finish off by March 10, which is the world indoors, they want to put their guys to sleep for a little while before starting to build up and being ready for the Olympic Games.

"Obviously the focus is the six medals in the Olympic Games and these guys are the ones who are going to do the job in London for us."

The trials on March 2-4 will be in conjunction with Melbourne's IAAF Challenge meet.

Athletes can still be pre-selected for London if they record a top-eight finish at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, later this year.

Back in 2000, the Olympic trials were held in Sydney approximately a month before the home Games.


Len Johnson on Runners tribe

Why on earth would an organisation want to trash its own national championships.
That was my immediate reaction to the news Athletics Australia was considering separating next year’s Olympic trials from the national championships.

Within 24 hours came official confirmation that that was indeed what was happening. The London 2012 Olympic trials would be on March 2-4, 2012, to be run as a three-day meeting in and around the IAAF world challenge meeting. The nationals, already slated to be run at the new State Athletics Centre at Melbourne’s Albert Park, would remain in the mid-April slot they have occupied for the past three years.

This will obviously impact massively on the nationals. Why would the 20 to 30 athletes selected from the trials bother to come back and run heats and finals of the same event more than a month later. It will also impact on the Melbourne Track Classic, not so much its international component (which would have the IAAF worried), but which Australian athletes get to run (a) the trials, or (b) those events with international representation.

Some fields, for example, will need to be limited, others to accommodate invited internationals. Flexibility will be lost. What if, for example, Jeff Riseley or Ryan Gregson wants to run against David Rudisha in the MTC 800, but selection policy demands they run the trials 1500? Either the trial or the world challenge meeting suffers.

Then, a whole heap of athletes who would not normally win national titles will do just that a month later as selected athletes get back to training for London.

Why on earth would you want that to happen.

Detailed discussion with board members and AA bureaucrats over the period of the championships left me with a better idea of why AA wants to do it. The high performance athletes and coaches want earlier selection trials, preferably in February, but the first week of March is acceptable, yet AA has agreements with the Victorian government to stage the 2011 and 2012 nationals in Melbourne, the former as the last event at Olympic Park, the latter as part of a high-profile first year for Albert Park.

The timing of the world indoor championships (in Istanbul on 9-11 March) and the uncertainty around the precise date of the Australian F1 Grand Prix (any of middle weekends in March) make the first weekend in March pretty much the only available date.

Making the trials a three-day meeting, and retaining the national championships, even a significantly diminished version, in April, means the AA can keep faith with its high performance staff, its top handful of athletes and their coaches, and the 700 or so who compete in the national championships all at the same time.

The national championships have not always been the selection trials. In 1998 and 2000, for example, the trials were held in the second half of the year, closer to the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and Sydney Olympics, respectively, while the championships remained in the traditional domestic season. But the two did not clash, as they will in 2012.

I’m prepared to concede that AA was caught between a rock and a hard place. But there were other ways around this dilemma. The national body could have stared down its elite athletes. How many genuine London medal chances, even those wanting to compete at world indoors as well, would be at risk of missing the team if the trials had been held with the nationals. None, most probably, especially when discretionary selection is taken into account.

Alternatively, AA could have brought the trials forward, but still made selection conditional on competing at the national titles. That would be less satisfactory, as many athletes would no doubt seek exemption for injuries of dubious validity, but at least it would make the statement that an Australian title is worth something.

The way chosen has some logic, especially when you consider the conflicting demands AA has to balance.

Ultimately, though, I remain unconvinced that it was the only solution, much less the best solution.

It is also an irony that the 2011 championships were promoted almost entirely around history, but now AA has chosen to declare, in effect, that history is bunk and national championships do not count for anything much at all.

In the vernacular, that would be called trashing your championships. I know, but I don’t understand, why Athletics Australia would want to do that.

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