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(28-Jul) -- World Athletics announced today that the qualifying window for marathon and race walk events for next summer's Tokyo Olympics would reopen on September 1, three months earlier than previously announced. The world governing body for athletics and road running made the decision because of concern from athletes that fewer and fewer qualifying opportunities were available due to the global pandemic. So far this year, hundreds of good quality road running events have been cancelled or postponed.
The suspension of Olympic qualification for track events, however, remains in force and runs through November 30. Also, the accrual of points for World Athletics Rankings and the automatic qualification through Gold and Platinum Label marathons based on finish place remains suspended until November 30.
Still, with dozens of quality marathons cancelled for the fall --including Platinum Label events like Berlin, Chicago, and New York-- the number of actual qualifying opportunities for the September through November period remains very small. The re-scheduled Virgin Money London Marathon remains on the schedule for October 4, and race director Hugh Brasher said yesterday that he and his team would make the final go, no-go decision over the next 10 days.
"Most of the major marathons have already been cancelled or postponed for the remainder of this year and the evolution of the pandemic makes it difficult to predict if those scheduled for the first half of next year will be able to go ahead," commented World Athletics president Sebastian Coe in a statement. "That situation, combined with the fact that endurance athletes in the marathon and race walks can only produce a very limited number of high-quality performances a year, would really narrow their qualifying window without this adjustment."
Today's decision has no impact on USA athletes. The United States Olympic Marathon team was already selected on February 29, when the Olympic Trials were held in Atlanta and the top-3 men and women earned Team USA berths. All six athletes who finished on the podium --Galen Rupp, Jake Riley, Abdi Abdirahman, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego-- ran under the Olympic Games qualifying standards of 2:11:30 for men and 2:29:30 for women and have locked in their team spots.
For athletes from other nations, the technical conditions for marathon qualification remain in force. Athletes must compete on a World Athletics-certified course, and the course cannot have an elevation loss greater than 42.195 meters (no restriction on start/finish separation, however). Athletes must wear shoes which conform to World Athletics regulations (sole thickness cannot exceed 40 millimeters).
Separately, World Athletics also revised the regulations covering competition footwear for track events. The sole thickness of competition shoes is limited to 25 millimeters for events of 800-meters and longer, including the steeplechase.