Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 143, July 2021 July 2020 - Page 28

Karsten Warholm
The Olympic Village
racing , with only four non-racing days . Such triples are the making of legends , but will require significant and accurate planning .
In the majority of events , there are not only a full set of heats and semi-finals to get through before the competition is whittled down to the final eight , but also , the final is rarely a flat-out event . Additionally , there are none of the pacers or kerb lights that have become a feature in recent months . Instead , Olympic finals are firstly about the gold medal , then the podium positions , and tactics and strategy are the order of the day , to nullify the strengths of competing athletes while countering one ’ s own weaknesses . Few track events are truly open for a 100 % effort by the time athletes reach the final .
An exception would be the 10,000m , but weather conditions of 25 ° C to 30 ° C and over 70 % humidity are hardly conducive to endurance events . Although the sprints flourish in warm weather , the heavier humid air slows progress , as will the various rounds , leaving the field events the best hope for records . Also , the impact of shoe technology will best be seen in the horizontal jumps , with the lack of competition possibly delivering the evolution and fine-tuning of the ideal run-up at the games .
Covid Complexities
As the IOC committee , 10,000 media and crew , 80,000 volunteers and 11,000 athletes gather for the 32nd Olympiad , COVID concerns are foremost in many minds . With just four days to go before the opening ceremony , 55 members of the Olympic Village had tested positive and faced quarantine or other measures . This raises questions over how COVID impacts will be handled during the competition schedule . The sport-specific regulations were only finalised a week or so before the Games , following questions posed to the authorities , and in principle , means that an athlete who tests positive will be removed from the next round of competition and designated as ‘ did not start ’ ( DNS ) in the results . The
The Olympic men ’ s 10,000m
next best performer from the previous round will then step up into his or her place .
Clearly this could mean that even a world number one could be removed after the heats if he or she tests positive , with the potential of considerably reduced fields . Obviously , the objective is to start the Games with a zero COVID count , and ideally , once all involved are in their ‘ Games bubble ,’ it is hoped that this is how the games can continue safely and smoothly . However , with a number of previously negative arrivals now testing positive , the new strategies for replacement are potentially a bigger issue .
Interestingly , the USA track and field federation nominated four athletes for some events , even though nations are only allowed to have a maximum of three athletes competing in any one event , and this is presumed to be a measure to cater for any positive COVID tests prior to competition commencing , while the athletes are still in their holding camp . This ‘ reserve strategy ’ seems a useful option , especially in one-off events , because in terms of World Athletics rules , any athlete who tests positive prior to the straight final events such as walks , marathons and 10,000m are simply marked as DNS and the event goes ahead with one less competitor , so the USA will have replacements ready to go right until the last possible moment .
Contingency Plans
However , the questions may become more complex in other scenarios . An athlete testing positive on the morning of a semi-final will probably have shared the call room with athletes from perhaps two to three heats of that event , for over 45 minutes the day before . That could mean 24 ( or more ) athletes plus officials in one event all being potentially exposed to infection . While only eight or 16 of those athletes will progress to the next round , the incubation period may mean further days before others are found positive in testing . On the other hand , the Tokyo weather will assist , as there is an ability to create very well-ventilated call rooms .
Contact and team sports will also pose some challenges . In boxing , for instance , the risk of contamination during the bout would appear high . Also , it may be the loser who tests positive , meaning
that the winner may test positive in later rounds and require elimination . By that time , he may have competed in a couple of other bouts , thus spreading the virus .
In boxing , as with tennis and badminton , an athlete will get a ‘ bye ’ if an opponent tests positive , and if it happens prior to the final , the positive-tested athlete will automatically get the silver medal , with the opponent taking gold . Team sports become even more complex , where one positive test of a single player would seem to necessitate the withdrawal of the entire team , with their opponents going forward to the next round . Soccer appears to have adopted the more logical approach stating that FIFA will have sole discretion on how to handle each case , taking what action is deemed necessary . This flexibility will however require balancing and monitoring with equity of application .
Clearly defined actions and outcomes will assist athletes to understand and promote an even application , but this level of generalisation is probably too simplified for the actual events of the next two weeks . Basically , there are no easy answers , particularly given the anxiety of the host nation ’ s population , many of whom are currently primed and ready to point fingers .
Let the Games Begin
No matter which way one views the Tokyo Games , it is set to have its fair share of spectacular performances and controversies . After all , controversy has always dogged the Tokyo events . The games of 1940 were cancelled due to World War Two , while the 1964 edition – the first I watched – brought the suspension of South Africa due to the Apartheid regime , and the current edition has been delayed and threatened by the COVID pandemic . But whether you welcome or condemn the IOC actions , it ’ s now time for those legendary opening words : Let the Games Begin !
About the Author
Norrie represented Scotland and Great Britain in numerous ultra-distance events , then represented South Africa in triathlon . He is a World Athleticsaccredited coach and course measurer , and travels all over the world to work on events , including the Olympics , where he has been part of four Olympic Marathon measurement teams . He has been appointed by World Athletics as Technical Delegate to a number of the world ’ s leading Label events in Africa , Asia and the Middle East . He has authored two books ( Everyman ’ s Guide to Distance Running and Every Beginner ’ s Guide to Walking & Running ), and counts 20 Comrades medals amongst his more than 150 ultra-marathon medals , as well as multiple wins at distances from 100km to 1000km . You can read more from him at www . coachnorrie . co . za .
Images : Citizen59 / Wikimedia & courtesy PUMA & Tokyo Olympics
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