The conundrum of Commonwealth Games qualifying

The Commonwealth Games have historically been used as a championships to blood up-and-coming athletes. A 17-year-old Steve Cram, for example, made his major championships debut for England in 1978 but elitism, as was also the case with the European Indoor Championships, will be the over-riding impression of the team judging from the mind-boggling qualifying standards set by England Athletics. While I’m not against tough qualifying standards in theory, it does seem rather ludicrous in this environment as medals could potentially be lost as some of the standards are actually in excess of recent gold medal winning marks! This is contradictory to the selection brief as the very first line states how “EA will nominate a team with the intention of achieving the highest possible number of top-8 places.” But why then, for example, is the women’s A standard 20cm in excess of the winning mark from the 2010 Games in Delhi?

Hopefully they will be used as nothing more than a guide and the selectors will use their discretion if necessary in order to ensure the strongest possible team because, as outlined below, the qualifying standards in the vast majority of events are very misguided.

Men’s 100m – 10.15, 200m – 20.30

Why is the A standard more than two-tenths faster than the corresponding mark for the World Championships when the selection criteria for both championships is a team capable of a top-eight finish in the final? In what sort of world is 20.52 deemed sufficient to make a World Championships final yet anyone running slower than 20.30 won’t make the top-eight in the Commonwealth Games?!

10.17 and 10.20 were good enough for medals in the last two 100m finals while 20.47 and 20.45 were the winning times in the last two 200m finals. The leading Caribbeans normally give the Commonwealths a wide berth so medals will no doubt be won in slower times than the A standard.

400m – 45.00

Only three times has the gold medallist broken the 45-second in the Commonwealth final. 45.44 would have sufficed for the title in 2010 and 45.09 would have taken silver in 2002 and 2006.

1500m – 3:36.0

2002 champion Mike East probably wouldn’t have made the English team had these standards been implemented in the lead-up to the last home championships. His pre-Games PB was 3:38.94.

5000m – 13:03.00

Money and resources have been heavily pumped into the British endurance programme but the long-distance team will have sparse representation in Glasgow if the selectors adhere to this mark as only two British athletes have ever bettered this mark. Rob Denmark was the last British winner in 1994 but he wouldn’t have even made the England team if the same standards applied back then as he didn’t break 13:20 leading up to the Games.

10,000m – 27:50.00

While not as intimidating as the 5000m standard, this mark is still unnecessarily steep. The Kenyans never send their best runners and anyone running inside 28-minutes will be competitive next year.

400m hurdles – 49.10

Chris Rawlinson won in 2002 in a slower time.

3000m steeplechase – 8:25.00

A standard is one-second faster than the World Championships ‘A’ standard.

Pole-vault – 5.60m

Steve Hooker cleared 5.60m to win the Commonwealth title in 2010. Only twice has the gold medal been won with a higher vault.

Long jump – 8.10m

While the balance of power in world long jumping is largely with Commonwealth athletes, 8.10m will easily suffice for a top-eight finish.

Shot put – 19.80m

The gold medal has only been won in a distance in excess of the A standard four times in Commonwealth Games history.

Discus throw – 63.00m, hammer – 72.50m, javelin – 80.00m

59m would have sufficed for a discus medal in 2002, 68m would have won a hammer medal in 2002 and Nick Nieland’s winning mark in 2006 was only 10cm in excess of the javelin A standard.

Women’s 100m – 11.25

2010 was admittedly a poor championships for the 100m but 11.39 would have won bronze in 2006. The A standard is also faster than the World Championships standard of 11.28.

200m – 22.90

The A standard is 0.15 faster than the corresponding mark for Moscow. 22.90 would have won a medal in the highly competitive 2006 final including the top Jamaicans and Cydonie Mothersill.

800m – 1:59.90

A rather arbitrary mark. Why not 2:00.00?!

1500m – 4:06.50

A fairly reasonable mark given the standard among Commonwealth athletes but similarly to Mike East, 2006 champion Lisa Dobriskey wouldn’t have made the England team for Melbourne if 4:06.50 the qualifying standard.

100m hurdles – 12.96

Anything around the 13-second mark puts you in medal contention. Bronze was won in 13.25 last time round, for example.

3000m steeplechase – 9:42.00

Marginally tougher than the ‘A’ standard for the World Championships, strangely.

High jump – 1.90m

Not reflective of the standards among Commonwealth jumpers. 1.83m and 1.88m were medal-winning heights in 2002 and 2006 respectively.

Pole-vault – 4.40m

4.25m would have sufficed for medals at the past two Games.

Long jump – 6.70m

The horizontal jumpers once more have drawn the short straw. A distance 20cm below the A standard would have won gold in Delhi while 6.49m would have sufficed for a medal in Manchester. Jo Wise, the last British-born winner of the title, won in 1998 with 6.63m.

Discus throw – 59.50m

Generally sufficient to make the rostrum against Commonwealth opposition.

Hammer – 66.50m

The ‘A’ standard would have won medals at every Games thus far and 64.04m was good enough for a medal in 2010.

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