Find Out Who Would Have Qualified Under the IAAF’s New World Rankings If Worlds Were Held Last Year, Plus the IAAF Answers Our Questions on Olympic Changes

March 13, 2019

On Monday, like the rest of you, we at were blindsided by the IAAF’s announcement that they would be implementing a new qualification system for the 2020 Olympics. As we were trying to figure out what it all meant, we were then hit with another change — the elimination of the 5000 from the Diamond League, beginning next year.

On Monday, we reached out to the IAAF with a few preliminary questions. To be honest, we have a bunch more questions now that we’ve learned more about the ranking system, but we’ve decided to publish our questions and the IAAF’s responses as a starting point.

Before we get to the Q&A, we should note that the IAAF made a point of emphasizing that one reason for the tougher standards is the need to reduce the number of Olympians, writing, “One further bit of information you will need is that the total athletics quota for Tokyo has been reduced from 2005 athletes (in Rio) to 1900, while at the same time we have added the 4 X 400m mixed relay. So that has put further pressure on the qualification system.”

Without further ado, here is our Q&A with the IAAF. We very much would like to see countries allowed to send any three [athletes] that they want assuming they have 3 people qualified in the system. Has there been any thought to that? Our fear is that up and coming athletes — someone like a slightly less talented version of say a Paul Chelimo or Clayton Murphy in 2020 — wouldn’t qualify under the new format. Galen Rupp might have been a better example. He medalled in 2016 but his debut marathon was the US trials and he barely got under the 2:11:30 standard.

Article continues below player.

IAAF: Member Federations keep the right to enter any three athletes they want who have qualified (either by entry standard or by ranking). In most cases, the list of qualified athletes well exceeds the spots available and any Olympic class up-and-coming athlete will certainly be in the qualifying ranking positions (which, because of the limit to 3 per country, in the marathon for example could go down to the top 400 before reaching the Olympic target number) as he can score in a marathon as well as in a half marathon. We cannot allow Member Federations to replace a qualified athlete with someone else who is not qualified. This is no different to what has been happening until now with the entry standards. Have you guys run the new system on past years — say 2017 or 2016 — to see what it would have looked like and which athletes would have qualified? Can you share that data?

IAAF: We have done a lot of statistical research and simulations. Attached is what we have shared with our member federations (Editor’s note: The spreadsheet shows you who would get in based on rankings alone but doesn’t note if there are athletes not ranked that high who would have taken a spot with a time qualifier). It is a simulation based on the Doha 2019 target numbers and on the world rankings as at the end of a theoretical 2017-2018 qualification period. If you select gender and any event, you will see a list (or pool) of qualified athletes (of which a maximum of 3 per country make up the target number – column H). Also, we will soon run a “live” simulation for Doha 2019 based on the world rankings through the official qualification period. And, of course, we will do the same for Tokyo 2020. Not sure whether this will be a section of the rankings page or in the Doha 2019 (and Tokyo 2020) dedicated pages. Are their plans to add filters to the ranking system online? Right now, you can’t type in the name of an athlete and see what their world rank is. You have to manually scroll through pages to find them.

IAAF: We are looking at this however you can have an athlete’s ranking position through his profile page. Also right now, you can’t limit the rankings to 3 per country. We imagine nearly everyone wants to see this to see where they would stand in terms of an Olympic descending order list.

IAAF: See above. The rankings page does let me filter by country, but when it lists the US rankings in an event, it only shows their US ranking, and not their world ranking as well. That needs to change.

IAAF: Areas and Member Federations also use the rankings for internal purposes and need the position to reflect the continental of national ranking. We will look into the possibility of keeping both. Also, now as we are writing we are seeing this stuff about the Diamond League changes. Is there someone we can talk to about this? What was the impetus for change? Why do people think 90 minutes is better than 2 hours? We can think of no other major sporting event that lasts less than 2 hours.

Response from new IAAF CEO Jon Ridgeon (he has been heading up this project for the IAAF and he was one of the original architects of the Diamond League 10 years ago):

The reduction in the DL international broadcast window from 120 minutes to 90 minutes was in response to extensive consultation with both current and prospective DL broadcasters, the majority of whom requested a faster, sharper and slightly more concentrated product. In addition however to the 90-minute international window, please be aware that the DL Meetings will also offer a further 30 minutes plus of additional coverage to their own domestic broadcaster, which will include extra domestic-themed events. If deemed to be of sufficient quality, this additional coverage will also be offered to the International broadcasters if they wish to take it.

This broadcast change, along with other evolutions planned for 2020 onwards, is all part of a DL refresh that all parties involved felt was important after 10 years of existence.

(Editor’s note: The full details of the DL 2020 plan can be found here:

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards