Field-event qualifying at 2015 worlds? Lyon risks roars of anger

Athletes are privately expressing anger that organizers of the 2015 WMA worlds in Lyon, France, have scheduled qualifying in field events. In other words, you throw or jump one day in a trials and come back the next for the finals. (This applies to most age groups.) See the men’s schedule here. See the women’s schedule here. I wrote to WMA veep Serge Beckers and the LOC, and their responses are below — as well as my thoughts.

Serge Beckers writes:

The prelims are planned qualifying for the field events. Athletes have to be sure that they can be competing on both days. The setup of the general time schedule with a lot of prelims (qualifying for field events) is done in order to accommodate as many entries as possible. Since the championship is organized in Europe we expect a lot of entries. Therefore we have to plan this way. We can not do finals of field events with more than about 20 athletes. 

The LOC (aka Team Lyon 2015) writes:

The schedule you can find on our website is a draft schedule. An update is planned at the beginning of september, but there won’t be many changes. As Serge Beckers told you, we expect a lot of athletes. That means that we’ll have to keep qualifyings for some courses and age groups. But if some qualifyings came to be canceled, the dates for the finals will still be held as written on the schedule. I invite you to keep an eye on our website and subscribe to our newsletter to be aware of the upcoming changes.

A friend who noted the qualifying round wrote:

Of course, we know there is no qualifying. (Spouse) and I are considering cruises that leave the 15th and one on the 16th because of the free airfare, but we can’t do it until we know what day we will actually jump. … They will be the first to ever do this. Not many masters vaulters can walk well the day after they jump. Qualify and final on consecutive days? If there is a final only, it would be helpful to know which day they would choose.

My thoughts:

The definition of “qualifying” needs sorting out. In IAAF events like worlds and Olympics, yes, you have a qualifying day — where you gotta clear a given height or throw past a certain line to advance to the finals.

But Lyon likely thinks of qualifying differently — as a way of winnowing large fields into manageable ones. I suspect that’s what happened in certain events at 2009 Lahti worlds, where results indicate qualifying rounds in the long jump, shot and other field events. Tell me if I’m reading this wrong.

But even if “qualifying” just means reducing field sizes (and cutting the likes of me), it poses problems for elites. Many entrants treat worlds like a buffet — entering as many events as possible. But that won’t happen if they have to juggle qualifying rounds with the slew of heats in track events.

So this would end up hurting the Lyon LOC by shrinking entry-fee revenue.

I salute Serge and the LOC for looking out for athletes — trying to avoid onerously long events. Nobody likes warming up at noon and waiting to jump or throw at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. (This has been a recurring complaint at large world and Euro meets.)

But in USATF meets, we have a way around this: Allow warmups midway through competition. This means high jumpers won’t worry about cooling off as the bar rises from 3 feet to 5. Can’t WMA do this?

In the case of throws, we already have a rule allowing the entire field three tries and then taking the top 8-10 into the final three throws. So yeah — it may take 15-20 minutes between throws in the first rounds. But then the final three tries go pretty fast. (Lahti used this procedure.)

Tourism is a big deal for WMA meet hosts, so requiring field-event qualifying is cutting their own throats. In requiring two days for many field events, Lyon also threatens the health of athletes. Speaking for myself, I have to take a nap after a few high jumps. If I managed to make the second-day final, I’d worry about injury and a coma.

But I won’t presume to speak for y’all, so here’s a poll.

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August 11, 2014

21 Responses

  1. Tom Phillips - August 11, 2014

    C’mon guys, get real. We track athletes have been doing this for years! You’ll still get your regulation number of jumps/throws, just like us “also rans” who get to run the distance and get a time. We’ve always had to come back later, or next day, and do it again if we were good enough and there were many entries. I remember four rounds (heats, quarters, semis, then final) for the M50 200m at WMA indoors in 2008, for example. What else is it you guys go to these events for? The kudos of being on the exact same results card as the eventual winner?

    Heats on the track don’t prevent some athletes treating major champs “as a buffet”. Someone will be suggesting qualifying rounds on track or field are in some way elitist before we know it.

    I can think of a way around all of this. If the need is to keep competitions down to a manageable size, let’s only allow people above a certain standard to take part in the Worlds. I’m sure we could trust everyone to be honest about their current form, and qualifying standards would be easy to set, without any controversy.

    I need to tread carefully here, because friends who know tell me there are people who don’t understand irony. Nevertheless, back to where I began: if someone can persuasively say why track events have in-championship qualifying rounds when it’s necessary to thin the field down to a maneagable, and field events should not, maybe there is a case.

    In the meantime, highly loaded questions in a facile “questionnaire” won’t help. Are you really just saying “We’ve never done it this way before, so why should we start now?”

    Tom

  2. Weia Reinboud - August 11, 2014

    Tom is right, in track events this is normal. In field events we also have had it earlier, in Riccione worlds my javelin group had a qualifying round in the morning and the final in the afternoon. I suppose many other throw events the same.
    And about manageable fields: ideal would be all finals in the same stadium, tightly planned, always at least two jumps, two throws and one run active at the same time!

  3. tb - August 11, 2014

    Sacramento had the same thing.

  4. Nick White - August 11, 2014

    I do not see the problem. Sac 2011 I had 2 events – hammer had a qualifying round due to the number of entries, while the weight throw qualifying round was canceled and went to a final only because a lack of participants.

  5. Mary Harada - August 11, 2014

    So – not much new here – many more participants likely for field events so a way to reduce the finals to a manageable size is needed.
    Track athletes have qualifying rounds, semi-finals, and finals. Even if one is in the oldest age groups there can be semi-finals and finals in the 800m and 1500m – so I will need to factor that into my sightseeing schedule as unless they cancel in advance, one has to turn up and be willing to run or I am out of the event. Fortunately there is no semi-final for the 5k or the 8k x-c!
    I must say the headline is a bit over the top – but a good way to get readers to take a look at the column Ken!

  6. David E. Ortman (M61), Seattle, WA - August 11, 2014

    Holding field event “qualifying” on one day and “finals” on a following day is NOT in the best interest of masters athletes.

    Because neither WMA or USATF will release meet event schedules prior to the entry deadline it is impossible to spot conflicting events. That is how the 2013 WMA-Porto Alegre M60 300m Hurdle finals took place at the same time as the M60 High Jump finals in a different stadium a half-hour cab ride away.

    Some want to measure the success of masters track and field by the sheer number of meet participants. But if this leads to four rounds of 100m/200m/400m is this really a good idea?

    Here are some suggestions for meet/time management:

    * WMA should consider doing what the USA National Senior Games do, namely have a split meet with M35-64 the first 5-6 days and M65+ the last 5-6 days. You still need the same number of officials, but athletes would not have to commit to two weeks.

    * Long/Short Hurdles. I have seen semis run in hurdle races just to eliminate one person. Whenever nine hurdles are entered in an event – move it to a timed final.

    * Throws/LJ/TJ. It is reasonable to have a “qualifying” round of three throws/jumps with the top eight moving right into the finals with three more jumps. But no one wants to triple jump one day and then come back to triple jump another day.

    * Throwers could also be given the option of taking two or three throws in a row, using flags to mark distance and then only measuring the longest throw to speed things up.

    * High Jump/Pole Vault. These are hard events for time management because you don’t know how low the bar will start or how high the bar will end. Perhaps setting the bar at a a minimum open height (appropriate for reach age group) would speed things along.

  7. Richard Watson - August 11, 2014

    None of the above three very specific and restrictive choices reflect my more nuanced position. I am not a runner and would not be able to lend any meaningful insight on the wisdom of qualifying heats in those events. For field events, at least the throws and horizontal jumps, there is justification for qualifying to whittle the field down to eight finalists as part of one continuous competition, or to a field of twelve, reduced to eight after the first three attempts in the finals, if the qualifying round is separated in time from the final. My primary contention is that if a qualifying round is necessary, to have it the same day as the final. That way, one has time to be able to recover his energy from the effort required to qualify for the final, but not so much time that the inevitable muscle soreness, tightness, fatigue and heightened risk of muscle pull type injury sets in. Also, things would be much less chaotic with less likelihood of event conflicts, conflicts with transportation and conflicts with touring. As was the case with Weia above in the javelin in Riccione, I had the same experience in Puerto Rico in 2003, with javelin qualifying in the morning and the final in the afternoon. Fortunately, I was able to perform at a relatively high level in the final without injury. If the javelin final had been held the following day, sore,tight, heavy, and dead groin and hamstring muscles would have made me worthless and resulted in a noticeably inferior performance and with a much greater probability of injury.

  8. Milan Jamrich - August 11, 2014

    I rather have a qualifying jump than waiting in a competition for 3 hours for my turn (usually in heat).

  9. Milan Jamrich - August 11, 2014

    Ken said: “Allow warmups midway through competition. This means high jumpers won’t worry about cooling off as the bar rises from 3 feet to 5. Can’t WMA do this?”

    This never works properly. They usually allow a “run through”, a break in the competition for maybe 5 minutes. You still have to show up for the competition hours before you start and wait. You would need to give the higher level competitors 30 minutes to warm up and move the bar up and down as they please. This would not be popular with high jumpers who are in the middle of the competition.

  10. Chuck Greene - August 11, 2014

    No problem with this format; other than….

    The Finals of a throwing event should be held 48-hours after the qualifying rounds.

  11. Terry Parks - August 11, 2014

    I am all for a qualifying round. The high jump in Budapest took forever. With a qualifying round, everyone gets to compete and the finals will be much shorter which I see as a win win.

    I can’t triple up in the 400/800/HJ, but that is just how the cookie crumbles. I plan on having plenty of time to sight see once everything is all over, and I plan on eating somecgreat French food everyday.

    So start preparing and planning now for multiple rounds and everything will be OK.

    Budapest was a blast and I figure the competition in Lyon will be faster, higher, and stronger than Budapest.

    See y’ll there.

  12. Bubba Sparks - August 11, 2014

    It’s very hard for higher level vaulters to go two days in a row. That said I have never seen 20 vaulters in the same group actually show up to the meet, even if more than that entered. No world or national event has ever had PV qualifying. It would be weird but it could be done. I wouldn’t use my pole I start at 12’/3.66m on for 8’/2.45m so that creates another issue; what and how many poles to bring. I think when all is said and done there will be no PV qualifying.

  13. Anthony Treacher - August 11, 2014

    What does the Lyons term Qualifications mean?

    In the 100m is it the same as the normal Heats? I.e. Qualififying Heats – business as usual?

    In the LJ is it a pre-anounced qualifying Distance (or standard) to be attained during the Qualifications day? And then maybe more than 8 jumpers advance to the final? In which case I would like to know, in advance, what that distance or standard is, for instance for the M75 LJ.

    Or in the LJ does Qualifications mean the whittling down of the long jumpers to the 8 best jumpers for the final?

    Whatever, I would also like to know in advance how many jumps I will have in the LJ Qualifications. I don’t think so many will enter/pay for the LJ if for instance they know in advance they risk only getting 3 jumps in the entire competition.

    Maybe Serge Beckers or the Lyons LOC can answer these relevant questions now?

  14. Barry Warmerdam - August 11, 2014

    I agree with Chuck Greene…the finals of a throwing event should be held 48 hours after the qualifying rounds.

  15. Jerry Bookin-Weiner - August 12, 2014

    As several commenters have said, this is business as usual. At the 2003 Worlds in Puerto Rico the qualifying rounds in the throws were in the morning with finals in the afternoon or evening. The automatic qualifying distance was rarely achieved so it was almost always the top 12 who went to the finals later in the day. On the extremely rare occasion that more than 12 achieved the auto-qualifying distance then all of them qualified for the finals. Those 12 (or more) got 3 throws with the top 8 getting another 3 – just like in the Olympics of IAAF World Championships. Nothing new here in the world of field events!

    I do like the suggestion of having the finals 48 hours after the trials – I know that as a masters athlete I am rarely at my best two days in a row, but we do that with different events at the nationals and no one complains about it. It’s the same for everyone in any case.

  16. Jerry Bookin-Weiner - August 12, 2014

    I do get that this is an issue in the HJ and PV, but the horizontal jumps are just like the throws in this regard. As Ken says:

    “In the case of throws, we already have a rule allowing the entire field three tries and then taking the top 8-10 into the final three throws. So yeah — it may take 15-20 minutes between throws in the first rounds. But then the final three tries go pretty fast. (Lahti used this procedure.)”

    Actually there is also a maximum size for a flight in the throws and horizontal jumps and if that number is exceeded there are two flights of prelims meaning the wait time between throws or jumps is rarely, if ever, 15-20 minutes. On the very rare occasion that there is more than one flight in the prelims, the finals follow another warmup period for the qualifiers. And it’s the top 8 that are taken to the finals in the US (even though technically it should be one more than the number of lanes on the track).

  17. Mike Fortunato - August 12, 2014

    Qualifying + final of some sort is essential, but same-day qualifying and final are neither ideal nor presumably necessary. I am just reiterating what David, Richard and others have said above, but I wish to add this: at open class worlds, there is also a qualifying standard. This allows the top half dozen or so athletes in each event to take a throw or two, hit the standard, and head back to shade and rest and ready themselves mentally and physically for finals. In this design, for obvious reasons, the qualifying throws do not carry forward, so another six throws (or 3+3, as Richard points out) are needed in finals. But the time saved in the schedule in the qualifying round by athletes qualifying in one or two attempts partly offsets this extra finals time. The benefit gained is that you are least disruptive to the potential medalists and thus secure an improved chance of putting the right people on the podium.

  18. Mike Fortunato - August 12, 2014

    I see that Jerry mentioned standards, and he generously implied that the performance standards in 2003 were not poorly conceived. The point of the standards is that anyone who is seeded among the top six who is on his or her game hits the standard in the qualifying round. So the Lyon team would have to pay attention to likely performances and get them right, despite the temptation to set them so high that they are guaranteed of only 12 in finals.

  19. Mike Fortunato - August 12, 2014

    Oops, sorry — I meant above that consecutive-day quals + finals are neither ideal nor necessary. Same-day or 48 hours are better, at least for throwers.

  20. Stefan Waltermann - August 12, 2014

    The current system is just fine. As Mike said, the top guns show up, warm up, one throw, then rest for finals. Us mortals, we get in our throws & head for a three hour lunch or stick around to support our friends.Thinking back to Riccione, the javelin throw was a day’s journey from the main venture. Going through a logistical nightmare for one qualifying throw and the same stress one or two days later… how far is the throwing facility from the main venue?

  21. Len Claassen - August 13, 2014

    I fully agree with Tom Phillips. This is the World Championships, not a local meeting. The athletes that have worked hard for their event will be able to handle it just as the track athletes have had to over the years.

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