Is the Olympic selection process broken?

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Ryan 14 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #1155

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    If so, how can we fix it?

    In other discussions of whether the Trials should be made an open race or not, the idea was brought up that the Trials system, as it stands now, is flawed. Well, in the interest of offering solutions to problems instead of just complaining about what is in place currently, how could we improve upon the current Olympic selection process that basically boils down to a one shot Trials.

    The more I think about different possible solutions, the more I think that what we have in place now is the best solution. However, in the interest of offering ideas, I will throw out one idea although I think this is as flawed as the current process, if not more.

    The one proposal I can think of that makes a bit of sense would be to still hold the Trials. However, only the top 2 finishers who have run an Olympic A standard are guaranteed entry. The third Olympic qualifier is selected by a committee made up of USATF officials and coaches. This would allow a situation where one athlete who may be injured for the Trials or who had a bad race at the Trials would not be punished. However, there are definite flaws in this. First, and most obviously, the winner of the Trials race could potentially not make the Olympic team. Second, one could argue if an athlete can’t keep healthy and can’t avoid a bad race at the Trials, who is to say that this athlete can keep healthy and can avoid a bad race at the Olympics. It also invites politics/favoritism into the picture by using a selection committee.

    In the end, I do think the current system, just as it is run now, is the best option. However, some people don’t think this would be the best way. Well, if you think there must be a better way, let us know what it is.

  • #13222

    ccbrian4
    Member

    I think the current system used to select our Olympic T&F athletes is fine. If you can beat the best in the country, you should go to the Olympics.

  • #13223

    Zeke
    Member

    I just got done reading A Cold Clear Day. Back in the 60s they had a trials race at the Yonkers marathon. Only the winner made the team. The other 2 spots were determined at another marathon later in the year. How goofy is that?

    I think the current situation is fair. Here are some random thoughts though.

    Why not have a half-marathon qualifying standard too? Say if you run sub-1:07 you can run in the Oly Trials. Maybe that help increase the size of the field a little. Maybe it’d keep some runners from getting beat up and having to miss the trials due to injury. I just thought of that idea, so don’t be too rough on me.

    I think one way to improve the current situation is to run the trials on a course that is similar to what the Oly marathon will be like. It doesn’t really make sense to run the trials on a flat course on a 50 degree day if the Oly marathon is going to be hilly and 90. I think you want to put the best runners for those conditions on the start line.

    I think the idea of selecting the 3rd member, by committee, is interesting, but I don’t really like it – especially if I finish 3rd at the trials. I’d hate to bring the politics into it. Heck, maybe KK would fake an injury because he knows he’d get voted on anyway.

  • #13224

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    Zeke wrote:
    Why not have a half-marathon qualifying standard too? Say if you run sub-1:07 you can run in the Oly Trials. Maybe that help increase the size of the field a little. Maybe it’d keep some runners from getting beat up and having to miss the trials due to injury. I just thought of that idea, so don’t be too rough on me.

    That’s an interesting idea and it would fit in well with what they currently do for the US Championships. If you remember, Sara Wells won last year’s US Championship in her debut marathon, getting in qualifying with a half marathon time. On the other hand, is the size of the field really an issue? I don’t know. Also, I’m not totally convinced on how much runners are getting beat up. I mean, they had all of 2002 and 2003 to qualify. It’s not like they had to run a qualifying time last fall, then do the Trials this spring, then come back with the Olympics. Culpepper hasn’t run a marathon in over a year, Browne originally qualified in the US Championships in 2001.

    Zeke wrote:
    I think one way to improve the current situation is to run the trials on a course that is similar to what the Oly marathon will be like. It doesn’t really make sense to run the trials on a flat course on a 50 degree day if the Oly marathon is going to be hilly and 90. I think you want to put the best runners for those conditions on the start line.

    I do like this idea believe it or not. I see the point of wanting a fast course to try to avoid a situation like 2000. However, if we want the best difficult course/difficult weather representation, why select the team by using a time trial course in favorable weather?

    Zeke wrote:
    I think the idea of selecting the 3rd member, by committee, is interesting, but I don’t really like it – especially if I finish 3rd at the trials. I’d hate to bring the politics into it. Heck, maybe KK would fake an injury because he knows he’d get voted on anyway.

    I’m not sure I really like it, either. Just throwing something out there since some people have expressed a dislike in the current process. The more alternative options I think of, the more I come to the realization that the current process is probably the best/most objective available.

  • #13225

    JCWrs
    Member

    Obviously there is no perfect system out there, but I like the idea of allowing a certain half-marathon time to qualify you. In my opinion, the problem is not with the qualifying system as much as the timing of the qualifying race. Why is it only 6 months before the Olympics? I know many people who hate to run more then one marathon per year so why force our best runners to run 2 of the most important marathons of their lives that close together? I say 9 months beforehand should be the minimum. I realize that a lot can change in 9 months with injuries and improvements, but I just don’t think we should ask our elites to put their best race out at the trials to qualify and then, 6 months later, perform at their best again when it matters most.

  • #13226

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    JCWrs wrote:
    In my opinion, the problem is not with the qualifying system as much as the timing of the qualifying race. Why is it only 6 months before the Olympics? I know many people who hate to run more then one marathon per year so why force our best runners to run 2 of the most important marathons of their lives that close together? I say 9 months beforehand should be the minimum. I realize that a lot can change in 9 months with injuries and improvements, but I just don’t think we should ask our elites to put their best race out at the trials to qualify and then, 6 months later, perform at their best again when it matters most.

    I think less than 6 months, like the women have to do this year, is a mistake. However, 6 months doesn’t seem that extreme. How many elites run 2 marathons a year anyway? How many do Boston, London, etc. nearly every spring, then do Chicago, Berlin, NYCM, etc. nearly every fall?

  • #13227

    Bart
    Member

    If you were to try to “fix” the qualifying system, what would be your goal:

    1. Ensure the most consistent American marathoners make the Olympic team.

    2. Select the marathoners who have the best shot at a medal (different from number one in that you would tailor the trials to duplicate the Olympic marathon course (altitude, weather…)).

    3. Increase the public interest in the marathon trials, which hopefully will result in an increased interest in the sport of marathoning.

    4. Something else I’m forgetting to list.

    Bart

  • #13228

    magpie
    Member

    the current system still does the job of selecting the best olympic team. entry should be restricted by marathon times only, not half-marathon performances — anyone who cannot break 2:20 (let alone 2:22) consistently will not be on the olympic team anyway. as for introducing a selection committee into the process (or adding in someone who did not run in the race or place in the top 3 via some other means such as ranking on a performance list), i think that should be reserved for only rare contingencies; for instance, if perhaps there are <x entrants/finishers who have the olympic 'a' standard.

  • #13229

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    Bart wrote:
    If you were to try to “fix” the qualifying system, what would be your goal:

    3. Increase the public interest in the marathon trials, which hopefully will result in an increased interest in the sport of marathoning.

    Sorry but I’m watching this in other places and I don’t understand why the selection process for the Olympic team should be concerned with raising the popularity of the sport. It’s about choosing the best representatives for this country, not a popularity contest. The Trials currently serves as a showcase of America’s best marathoners, which I think is a wonderful thing and is something that a lot of die-hard running fans appreciate. However, that should be considered a nice side effect and not a primary goal.

  • #13230
    Zeke wrote:
    I think one way to improve the current situation is to run the trials on a course that is similar to what the Oly marathon will be like. It doesn’t really make sense to run the trials on a flat course on a 50 degree day if the Oly marathon is going to be hilly and 90. I think you want to put the best runners for those conditions on the start line.

    Problem is that it isn’t about picking a course that is like the Olympics, but the USATF uses the very important criteria of who throws the most money at them to select the trials race.

    I was thinking about picking 1 or 2 members of the Marathon Olympic team by commitee, but I could see how there would be some politics involved. Everyone would be pointing at KK’s current injury situation as just a way to get out of the trials and still make the team because he would be selected anyway.

  • #13231

    Bart
    Member
    Ryan wrote:
    Sorry but I’m watching this in other places and I don’t understand why the selection process for the Olympic team should be concerned with raising the popularity of the sport. It’s about choosing the best representatives for this country, not a popularity contest.

    I agree with you. The reason I included raising the popularity of the sport in my list was specifically because that seemed to be the reason for the thread that sparked this debate on the Runner’s World forums, and it was discussed in another thread on this forum.

    Personally, I think the current system achieves its primary goal — to select the best U.S. marathoners for the Olympic team. I think if you want to improve the current system, you should build around it, not change it.

    It would probably be a logistical nightmare, but I think it would be cool to have short races (5K and 10K) on a Friday evening followed by a post-race party where the people who qualified for the trials could be introduced and mingle with the race participants. This could be followed by a people’s marathon on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s marathon trials on Sunday. It would be a complete runners weekend.

    Bart

  • #13232

    Anonymous

    The current system will always have one thing going for it… it’s the fairest system possible. I really dislike the idea of having a committee or some other group decide who makes the team, even if it’s just for one member. The selection process could become very political, much like it can get in Kenya. After reading “Train Hard, Win Easy”, one gets the impression that few of the runners really have a good idea of why they do or don’t make the team. The results have sometimes been disastrous, and have had unpleasant effects on team morale.

    Part of the beauty of the Olympics is that virtual unknowns can make the team and break through to win a medal. These heroes who come out of nowhere have always sparked a greater interest in the sport, especially in their home countries. Many of these athletes make the team by outperforming other athletes who have had much better years. With any other system in place, perhaps we never would have heard of Bill Mills or Bob Schul (my running history is way rusty, so there are probably better examples).

    Also, in the end, the Olympics is just one race. It’s unfortunate if an athlete gets injured and can’t make the trials, but these things happen. That’s why there are various World Championships, Euro track circuits, prestigous road races, etc. Oh, ya… and another chance at the Olympics. Most athletes get at least 2 legitimate, injury-free shots to make the Olympic team in their careers. Few people think any less of Bill Rodgers for not having an Olympic gold… he proved himself elsewhere.

    Other ideas tend to remind me of the college football BCS system… I fear that if we go by best times in the last year, best performance in a series of races, some sort of vote, or any combination of these plans, people will be begging for the good old days when the top athletes got together one day and went at it fair and square.

  • #13233

    Just not in that particular order and you left out a couple of parties.

    2004 USA Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon

    Elite Athlete Schedule

    Wednesday, February 4

    6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Pizza in the Hospitality Suite – for those of you coming in on Wednesday, we’ll have a variety of pizza and beer in the suite for you.

    Thursday, February 5

    Elite Hospitality Suite Opens – video of 2003 USA Men’s Marathon Championship race will be available for viewing. Computers with online access will be available for your use. An unlimited supply of bottles of Dasani, Powerade, Cokes and juices will be at your disposal to take back to your room. Snacks and desserts will be abundant. We’re making sure we have everything that each of you has asked for, so if something you’d like is not there, just ask and you shall receive (within reason of course). A keg will be available for your consumption (more so for after the race, although Eddy visited it quite often before the race last year).

    Media Center Opens – this will be located in the suite below the Elite Suite. We’ll have an area in the media suite for them to conduct interviews with you during the day. We’ll let you know of any specific requests for interviews that we receive.

    9:00 a.m. Trial Run of the loop with Scott Strand – media photo opportunity – for those of you who will already be in town, we’d appreciate if you’d join Scott for a one loop run/tour of the criterium part of the course (a little over 5 miles). We’ll be providing a lead truck for the media to ride on while you’re running. We want to make sure you all get good, positive press for the benefit of Men’s Long Distance Running, so please participate in this if you are coming in early.

    11:00 a.m. USA Olympic Trials Athlete Press Conference – Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (across from Sheraton Birmingham)

    Featuring: Alan Culpepper, Meb Kheflezghi, Dan Browne, Ryan Shay and Scott Strand – Hosted by former Olympic Marathoner & 1996 Olympic Trials Winner Keith Brantly & 2000 Olympic Trials Winner Rod DeHaven

    Subway will be providing lunch for the media and any of you wanting to stick around afterwards. The driver will bring you back afterwards.

    12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Hospitality Suite Open to Families

    5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Private Dinner for Elite Athletes and family members

    A very informal gathering in the hospitality suite – a variety of Subway sandwiches, salads, fruits and desserts will be available.

    6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Mercedes Marathon / Olympic Trials VIP / Sponsor Reception (you need to be there from In the Ballroom of the Sheraton Birmingham where the weekend race expo will be– we’ll

    6:30 – 7:30 only) provide ongoing shuttles to and from the reception. All athletes, family members and friends are invited. There will be lots of food in case the Subways didn’t fill you up. (Email us names and addresses of your family members coming if you’d like them to receive a “formal” invitation). We will provide you with a shirt to wear to this – please bring a pair of nice khakis to wear to this. We’ll even iron them for you if need be. All we ask is for you to be there from 6:30 until 7:30 to help us score major points with our sponsors and city officials. Your families and friends are welcome to stick around for some fun so you can go get some rest afterwards. Shameless begging will occur to get you to make a brief appearance here to thank everyone that has helped pay for this event! I know some of you have been asked to private dinners and such that evening, but I’d really appreciate if you’d help us out here by making a brief appearance.

    8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Desserts in the Hospitality Suite – the running community in Birmingham is making you all a huge variety of desserts based on all of your individual requests for the suite.

    Friday, February 6

    9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Hospitality Suite Open

    9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Course Tour – we’ll take you out to the start, drive you in and take you on one loop of the course if you’re interested.

    11:00 a.m. EIP Kids Run – Bell Center for Early Intervention in Homewood

    Several guys attended this last year (including Ryan Shay and Kevin Collins who came in 1st and 2nd) – once you see these little children (all under 3-years-old with physical and developmental disabilities such as Downs Syndrome, Cerebal Palsy, etc.) from one of our race charities run, walk or crawl in their own race of 50 feet, you’ll think your 26.2 mile race is a breeze! It’s definitely an experience you don’t want to miss. Those of you with children of your own should make this a must on your schedule of things to do.

    12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Mercedes Marathon Race Expo – Sheraton Birmingham

    Be sure to show your athlete badge at the merchandise booth to get 30% off of any purchase. I’ve notified the staff working the booth of this, so stop by and stock up on some Trials merchandise for your family.

    2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Hospitality Suite Open to Families

    1:00 p.m. USA Olympic Trials Athlete Press Conference

    Featuring 2003 Marathon Championship Participants (who have all run the course) Ryan Shay, Kevin Collins, Clint Verran, Jeff Campbell, Scott Strand, Brian Clas, Chris Banks, Kyle Baker, Carl Rundell, Fred Keiser, James McGown, Nate Bowen, Rick Fuller, Jason Medler, Ken Pliska, and Michael Wardian– Hosted by Keith Brantly and Rod DeHaven – Sheraton Birmingham at Race Expo.

    2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Special Fluids Bottle Fill-Up/Drop-Off

    5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Trials Athlete Technical Meeting – Mandatory – no media or family – USATF officials will be there to check out your uniforms after the meeting. Please plan on bringing what you plan to wear in the race with you to this meeting so there won’t be any issues come race morning.

    5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Family Viewing 101 – How to Maximize the Trials Viewing Experience for Family Members – Crown Plaza Hotel – shuttles and drivers will be provided to family members on Saturday who wish to go to the start, then stop at several locations on the course. Interested family members should attend this meeting to sign up for the shuttle service and review where they will be stopping along the course. Everyone who did this last year had a blast, so be sure they sign up if they are interested so we’ll know how many vans and drivers we’ll need.

    6:00 p.m. Pre-race dinner for Trials athletes & families – we’re working hard to provide each of you with your favorite pre-race foods. We’ll have a buffet set up for this in the Tutwiler Restaurant. Family members are welcome to join you, but will need to purchase a meal ticket at the door for $25 each. This will be a very nice, sit down dinner, so children under 12 will not be allowed to attend this dinner. We have arranged for babysitters from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Crown Plaza for everyone with children. This way, families can go to the Family meeting without having to keep up with kids and everyone can have a nice relaxing, non-stressful time at dinner. We’ll have pizza for the kids to eat and games for them to play. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Women’s Cross Country team has volunteered to provide this babysitting service.

    Saturday, February 7

    7:15 a.m. Athlete Shuttles to Trials start area – we will leave promptly at 7:30 and will not wait on anyone. It’s about a 15 minute drive to the start. You’ll be on your own to get to the start if you miss one of the buses. The holding area is at a YMCA with an indoor rubber floor gymnasium and running track (it’s old, so don’t expect much). An (old) outdoor track is outside with a large grassy area in the middle if you’d prefer to warm-up on the grass. The starting line is about 10 yards from the front door so it will be easy to walk up to the road to warm-up and come back in to strip down before the start. We’ll have floor mats for stretching, massage therapists, bottles of Dasani water and Powerade, snacks, gels, tea, etc. No one will be allowed into the gym building other than you guys, a few of my staff, and one USATF official who will be checking uniforms again. We’re bringing in extra portalets just outside the back door, so there will be about 18 toilets (inside and outside) available for you all with no one else being allowed to use them. (Only in the sport of running is this such an important issue!) We’ll have extra timing chips, singlets (in case yours is not allowed for some reason), NipGuards (no bleeding nipples in our pictures please), extra gloves, extra sunglasses, extra caps, extra safety pins – you name it and we’ll have it there for you in case you forget something. Scott and I own the running stores in town, so don’t hesitate to let one of us know if you forgot something important for your race. Please bring the gym bag we’ll be providing you with your name on it to stash your gear in before the race starts. We’ll have this waiting for you at the finish. I’m not one who believes in a lot of hoopla prior to the race, as you don’t need to be standing still long before the start. Since it is the Trials, we’ll have to do some sort of welcome and such, but I’ll schedule that to be several minutes before the start and only let it last a minute or two so it won’t interfere with your warm-up. The race will start promptly at 9:00 a.m. We’ll give you countdown warnings every 5 minutes starting 8:30.

    7:45 a.m. Family Shuttles to Trials start area – drivers will pick them up from the Crown Plaza and take them to start and throughout the course. We’ll have a heated tent setup at the start in front of the YMCA pool house with coffee and doughnuts for them while they are waiting on the race to start. Shuttles will leave no later than 8:00 a.m.

    8:00 a.m. Mercedes Marathon Hospitality 3-Mile Run Downtown YMCA

    – continental breakfast provided

    8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Burr Forman/Tidwell Dewitt VIP Breakfast – Hospitality Tent and Grandstand Area at Finish Line

    – passes for family members will be provided

    8:30 a.m. Start of 2004 Mercedes Kids Marathon – Linn Park

    9:00 a.m. Start of 2004 USA Olympic Men’s Marathon Trials – Roebuck YMCA

    9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Linn Park Olympic Celebration (following Kids Marathon)

    11:10 – 12:00 p.m. Olympic Trials Drug Testing

    11:10 – 11:15 a.m. Flash interviews with top 3 Holding Tent at Finish – we’ll review this process at the Technical Meeting

    12:30 p.m. Trials Press Conference/Luncheon

    Tutwiler – mandatory for the top 15 finishers to attend. Everyone is welcome, as I’m sure you’ll be a little hungry by this time.

    12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Massages and Beer – The unlimited Michelob Ultra will be flowing for you in the Elite Suite with snacks all afternoon. We’re hoping to get the tape of the race from our local NBC affiliate by this time for you to watch. We’ll have the Millrose Games on the tv where they will be doing a short feature on the race between 3:30 and 4:00. The local NBC station will be providing me with a copy of the race and a copy of their 30 minute show they are producing on the race. I’ll make sure each of you gets a copy of all of both of these soon after race weekend.

    12:00 – 7:00 p.m. Mercedes Marathon Race Expo Sheraton Birmingham – don’t forget your athlete access badge to receive 30% off of everything.

    2:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. Olympic Team Sign-up – top 5 finishers must stop by the Hospitality Suite and fill out the “official” Olympic Team entry form at this time.

    4:00 p.m. USA Olympic Trials Awards Ceremony Alabama Sports Hall of Fame – Mandatory for top 15 to attend if you want your check.

    5:00 – 9:00 p.m. Aramark Pasta Dinner & an IMAX Movie

    McWane Center – This is the pre-race dinner for the Mercedes Marathon participants. Feel free to attend – just let us know you’d like to go (great place for families as the McWane Center is a hands-on science museum for children) and we’ll give you tickets and provide you transportation.

    5:00 – 9:00 p.m. Olympic Trials VIP Party –

    Sponsored by The Running Network

    Alabama Sports Hall of Fame

    · Big screen showing the race

    · USATF officials, sponsors, media, visiting race directors, volunteers, athletes, families, coaches, etc.

    · Lots of good food and beverages will be available.

    Sunday, February 8

    6:55 a.m. Mercedes Half-Marathon Wheelchair Division Start – presented by Lakeshore Foundation

    7:00 a.m. Mercedes Marathon & Half-Marathon & Enterprise Rent-A-Car 5-Person Marathon Relay – WARNING – I made poor Ryan ride on the back of a nice $100K Mercedes convertible last year with the Princess Mercedes. We even had him throwing out confetti and noise makers to everyone. I want the winner to do the same with the Half-Marathon lead car and the number 2 & 3 guys to ride in the Marathon lead convertible. Bring something warm if you plan on being in the top 3. It’s a great chance to thank your fans and see a race from another perspective. It’s also a great media opportunity. Several women who have qualified for the Women’s Trials will be running the half, so you’ll get to watch them race. I’ll be hunting you down on Sunday morning, so just go ahead and plan on meeting me at the start area at the Sheraton at 6:45 a.m.

    8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. VIP Hospitality Blood Mary Breakfast – tent at finish area – your athlete badge will provide you access. Your family’s access badges will provide them with access as well.

    9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Jim ‘n Nick’s Post-Race Celebration & Awards Ceremony – lots of free southern bbq and beer here.

    11:00 a.m. Awards Ceremony – Half-Marathon

    1:00 p.m. Awards Ceremony – Marathon

    1:00 p.m. Course Closes

    1:30 p.m. Door Prize Drawings (drawing for 2004 Mercedes M-Class – all Mercedes Marathon and Half-Marathon official finishers are eligible)

    We’ll have ongoing shuttles to the airport for your return flights. Holly and Challis have most of your flight schedules and will take care of this. We’ll miss you all by this time!

  • #13234

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Mark, I’m with you. I think slight tweaks with the schedule of the weekend could be beneficial in promoting the sport. However, for selecting the team, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the current process is the best and the current weekend schedule is quite well thought out.

    Miles, very interesting look at the schedule that most of us would probably have never seen if you didn’t post it. It’s great to see how well they take care of the athletes and their families. This is something that’s good to know, as I will hope to see the same thing in 2008. It’s nice to see that family is well taken care of and encouraged to participate in the weekend.

  • #13235

    I am looking forward to the experience. By looking at what they have sent us, looks like expenses will be low even being a “B” qualifier. They gave us a discounted rate ($70) at a nice hotel and looks like most of the meals will be taken care of. The only REAL expenses is the flight, so I am going to have to run a bit faster so I won’t have to worry about finding a way to pay for it in 2008. So even if I am not quite ready to run something spectacular at least the experience will be one I won’t soon forget.

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