See M50 French sprinter’s 7-point plan to improve WMA worlds

It’s not exactly the Storming of the Bastille, but a 1,300-word comment posted by M50 sprinter/hurdler Francois Bontemps is the equivalent for our sport. He shared a note sent to World Masters Athletics on how to improve world meets. His manifesto makes total sense. It’s reprinted below, slightly edited, since he wrote in a second language. Francois barely missed making the 200-meter final at 2015 Lyon worlds, so he’s a serious athlete. He shares the name of a famous general, so I think WMA should lissen up — lest the 21st century Francois lead another charge of the ramparts.

WMA 2017 isn’t Paris 1789, but masters athletes have their grievances.

Here’s what he posted. Your comments are welcome, too!

To avoid to be consider only as a negative criticism, here are the proposal I sent to WMA in order to improve Championship organizations (and credibility of Master tracks also!)

Some proposals to improve Championship organizations.

Because Championships are on WMA or EMA responsibility (this is WMA or EMA who choose cities), I think you are able to update some rules to avoid disappointment on the following subjects:

  • Free transportation
  • Results communication
  • Confirmation of participation
  • Detailed schedule
  • Respect qualification rules
  • Relays

Proposal 1: free transportation. An “easy” solution could be to “oblige” an organization to provide a free transportation. In fact, I think that most of complaints are because athletes have discovered that transports will not be free .. only 2 week before first event.

So my proposal:
Oblige organization to be clear enough about free transportation (or not) before to register (3 months before)

Proposal 2: Results . It is a pity not to be able to get results (and start lists) before a long time. It was worse in Lyon because events were splits in several stadiums. EMA has solved this issue: FIDAL services (Sigma ?) is now mandatory for European championships (To be confirmed). We can follow results and start list in live, results are very pretty and easy to reach and we also can get finish line picture.

So my proposal:
Oblige organization to use this service (or a similar one’s after validation by EMA/WMA)

Proposal 3: Confirmation of participation. When there is no confirmation and because heats have been built on registration bases even if people were not present (and there are always 25-35% of people missing) we can have heats with only 2 or even one people! Other issue, competition is not really fair because some “lucky” guys have been able to run at 70 % to go in semi-final and at same time some other were obliged to run 100%. Same thing for jumps, on High jump by example, 2 competitions at same time but because more people on one group, the high was not at same high at same time.

So my proposal:
Put in place a confirmation to build heats only with people ready to compete. Of course this can cause a constraint for athletes: to be present sooner: For that 2 options:

  • Have a very good software system to build heats/group… in a short time (as in any national meeting…)
  • Allow people to be confirmed by team manager, friends…

Proposal 4: Detailed schedule. In order to allow people to organize their championships, detailed schedule has to be available 6 weeks before start of competition. To have enough time to build it regarding number of people registered, it is mandatory to set registration deadline sooner

Proposal 5: Respect qualification rules. In WMA technical rules (Appendix K, page 23 and as follow) the number of rounds and qualification mode is clearly defined. On some championships, rules are defined or updated sometime on call room. To avoid misunderstanding my proposal:

Define rules in technical manual, following those as defined in Appendix K for outdoor (for indoor, to avoid 4 rounds, because of shortest duration of championships, rules can be changed but in any case all has to be written in technical manual)

Proposal 5B is: cancelation of round. If a round is suppressed because of lack of attendees, rules have to be clearly written in technical manual and not decided case by case at last time. My proposal:
Define rules in technical manual (and cancel semi-final instead of heats).

Now, master are integrated in World Championships in Pekin, some events are added on diamond league, I hope WMA will put in place actions in order to put at same level (rigor, professionalism) Master athletics as other athletics event.

Proposal 6: relays organization (outdoor). It is used to close championships with relays 4×100 and 4×400. However, because of the duration of championships and common schedule, 4×100 relays happened often 8 or 10 days after 100m. So because a lot of masters have family, job (so not long vacations), sprinters have to choose between individual event and relays. A lot of relays races are run without best sprinters. My proposal:
Schedule 4×100 relay first Sunday (between 100 and 200)

No change for masters used to stay during all championship, for others they can participate on individual and relay with “only 4 or 5 days” of vacation (instead of 12 as for Lyon by example or 10 as for Izmir)


Some explanations of points

Proposal 1 and 2: Easy to understand Lyon is THE bad example, with a lot of people disappointed through social networks. Transportation issue and lack of live result was worse because masters were split through 4 different locations.

Proposal 3: Confirmation: For this also, Lyon is the bad example. Before to explain some history. Here in France when we are allowed to participate on meeting with other athletes, master athletics is not really considered as athletics or competition but more hobby or spare-time. As many of my partners I was expected that WMAC in Lyon will change the mind of some trainers, athletes… The first Sunday, in Balmont, heats of 200… and what they have seen: some heats with only 2 or 3 people, one guy (alone in his heat) qualified in 29”28 with some other eliminated in 24”50… So they are now sure that Master athletics is closer to circus than a real championship (even if they have been impressed by some good results).

Proposal 4: bad example, Ancona. Schedule only available 2 weeks before races.. Some competitors have discovered that they will not be able to use public transportation (if they have race soon or late (after 8pm). Some other grouped to share accommodation costs have discovered that they have schedules “difficult to combine”. Because Ancona is a small city and a lot of competitors have to find accommodation outside city it is difficult to manage this situation in only 2 weeks..(or they have to stay full day in stadium)

Proposal 5: Lyon: it’s a pity for some events (200m) to have only 20% of attendees able to go on second round (example 200m): Duration of competition, and also because of 4 different locations, it could be easy to add an other round. Other example, for some jump, no qualification round. 2 areas for competitors and the 8 better’ one’s with 3 additive tries: but one group finish 1 hour before other one.. Same kind of issue on throw…These problems never happen with an additive qualification round

Proposal 5: example Izmir : lack of attendees on 100m M45 and M50. For M50, heats maintained Saturday and semi-final canceled on Sunday. For M45, heats canceled on Saturday but semi-final (transformed in heats) maintained on Sunday.

Other example, Torun M50 800m. Semi-final canceled and 3 heats: but rules for qualifying not following rules defined in technical manual (First + 5 best times instead of 2 first + 2 best time). These rules explained “only” in call room: one “best runner” (B. Zavattero) was victim of this misunderstanding.

Last example: Ancona, 400m, M50: 3 semi-finals: qualification “written on computer” : 2 first of each. In reality, first was qualified plus 3 best time: one Italian guy was not aware and not qualified… At same time, M55: 2 semi-final, qualification first + 4 best time. Where is logic?

Proposal 6: Next World championships are scheduled in September (so “outside” common vacation period): it will be difficult for people working to spend 2 weeks of vacations to run both on individual races and on relays. This is the case for Perth and this is the reason number one for me (and I know also for some friends of mine) to not participate.

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February 26, 2017

8 Responses

  1. Weia Reinboud - February 27, 2017

    Good work!
    I would add:
    proposal 7: the number of stadiums preferably is 1, and at most 2 (with excellent transportation between them).
    proposal 8: the length of a championship should not exceed 1 week! Often there is just one discipline going on at the same time. In a true athletics stadium there always should be more things going on at the same time. One run, one horizontal jump, one vertical jump, one long throw. When you look carefully at the duration events really have taken, you’ll find long pauses.

  2. Pino Pilotto - February 27, 2017

    Good work!

    Complètement d’accord soit avec François et Weia!

    Pino Pilotto, Switzerland

    (but there are no such things like negative criticism)

  3. Tom Carlson - February 27, 2017

    Very good.

  4. Jouko Yla-Liedenpohja - February 27, 2017

    I would totally eliminate the semi-finals, only heats and finals: all eight best seed times run in the same heat, the next best eight the same, and so on. Every one runs with his or her peers at 100 per cent.
    The best seeded ones compete for the lane draw in the final, and the ones in the next best group compete for a time among the eight best in the prelims and an entry to the final
    The Lyon worlds had taken at least three days less of our valuable time it this rule had been applied

  5. Rick Easley - February 27, 2017

    I wish that the meet organizers would pay particular attention to the idea of “common vacation period”. It seems that more and more the World Championships are being placed outside the “common vacation period”. Is there some reason why we can’t get these events during the Summer months when a larger percentage of the athletes can get away. There needs to be a study done on how this has affected the attendance of recent championships. It seems that championships are designed more for the convenience of the organizers than the athletes in recent years.

  6. Jerry Bookin-Weiner - February 27, 2017

    As with the USATF Masters Championships, WMA is hostage to who bids to host and when they can reasonably get the facilities and the hotel space. In the case of Perth it was a question of not having the meet in the middle of the Australian winter (not an issue for Brisbane in 2001 – think Florida in winter in the US).

    In the case of Malaga in 2018, my guess is that they couldn’t possibly hope to get hotel space in the usual summer period because the hotels and beaches there are packed with northern Europeans on summer holidays then. Now why pick Malaga instead of somewhere else? I wasn’t there but I’ll bet it had a lot to do with European delegate votes. At least Toronto in 2020 will be in July! And Gothenburg, Sweden, the presumptive favorite for 2022, also had dates in July/August for their 2020 bid.

    As for Rick’s question, I don’t think it takes a study to figure out that the dates have a serious impact on attendance. Therefore you’d think the WMA leadership would weigh in on dates as part of the bid/selection process. Smaller numbers mean less revenue not only for WMA but for the LOC as well.

  7. francois bontemps - February 28, 2017

    I agree with Weia about point 7 and 8. I want to add that this proposals have also been sent to EMA and to Aarhus organisation of next european championships: I don’t know if I’m “responsible” but I appreciate one change: 200 races have been postponned next week, the Thirsday and friday before 4x100m relay : this is a good work-around to my proposal 6 allowing sprinter to compeete both on individual and relay in only 3 days !
    Regarding next WMA championships in Daegu : point 1 was good : free transportation, it was clear some months ago, 4 is wrong we get detailed schedule on a week ago so less than 4 weeks before start: today, I’m unable to say what will happen regarding point 2’3 and 5 : technical manual not available yet..!

  8. Robert Thomas - March 16, 2017

    I do recall the LOC from Malaga 2018 stating that the 4 x 100 relay would be contested after the 100 final rather than at the end of the meet. I’m not sure if that means on the same day or the following day. At least the 100m sprinters will get a chance to run on a relay without having to set around for a week waiting to run.

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