Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Only in Canada, pity.

Is a 2:16:59 marathon time good enough to qualify for the Beijing Olympics?  How about 2:16:55? Apparently not, at least not in Canada.  These are the times set by Canada's Giitah Macharia and Matthew McInnis at the Ottawa Marathon on May 25th.  Although excellent times, they don't meet the Canadian Olympic Committee's A+ standard of... wait for it... 2:11:31, or the A standard of 2:12:38, or even the B standard, 2:14.  The women's standards are A+ 2:27:35, A 2:29:08, B 2:31:00. The Canadian standards were established following a statistical analysis from the past five years to demonstrate the top 12 ranked athletes in the world (i.e. the top times in the history of marathons). Hmmm, odd when one considers the first place male finisher in the 2007 Worlds in Osaka, Japan was 2:15:59 or the average marathon time in the 2004 Athens Olympics was 2:22:00.  To be fair to the Canadian Olympic Committee both Osaka and Athens had extenuating circumstances which made for slower than average races, but the point is the A+ standard is virtually unattainable by all except for a micro-percent of athletes. Most agree that a winning time for Beijing Olympic marathon will be a sub 2:08 time (or about 2:15 to 2:18 in extreme weather). The question is, what's it all about?  Is it about winning medals or nurturing the elite athlete of the future?  
It depends.  Many countries say yes, medals are important, but they also believe it's about exposing budding elite athletes to international events. Many countries, including USA, will send their A, B, and C athletes not with the expectation of them winning medals, but rather as an investment in the future.  Greg McMillan  of McMillan Running Company, Flagstaff, Arizona explains:
“..for those of us working with emerging elite runners, we feel that providing opportunities for athletes to experience international competition is vital to their ability in future championships to compete for medals...  they usually need one or two exposures to this level of competition before they can perform maximally."
While other countries regularly send their A, B, and C standard athletes for the experience and the exposure of competing internationally, Canada stands firm with the A+ standard.  In the opinion of this blogger,  it's a downright shame.  How else will these athletes get experience? The A+ standard is virtually impossible to attain for a country the size of Canada.
With 10 times the population of Canada, USA will send 22 times the number of athletes.  Do the math, Canada will send 29 athletes to Beijing.  USA will send 630.  21 American men and 44 American women will compete in the marathon event.  No Canadian athlete will compete in the marathon event.  My guess is very few of the 65 Americans running in the Beijing Olympic Marathon live up to the Canadian A+ standard and yet all 65 are competing  There is no expectation that all will win medals, they are sent to expose them to competition at the international level and to make their homeland proud.
Oh, and the USA standard? Men A Standard 2:15, B Standard 2:18, Women A Standard 2:37, B Standard 2:42.
Only in Canada, pity.
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