A Quick Primer to Help You Master The A’s & B’s of the Trials
How well do you really understand the Olympic selection process for Team USA? Don’t worry, I’ve taken the time to read through and distill the US Olympic Committee’s selection procedure documentation and qualification standards down to a few important points. After reading this post, you’ll understand and be able to explain to family and friends why the top 3 finishers at the Trials are not always the athletes that represent Team USA at the Olympic Games.
Every event contested at the London 2012 Olympic Games has a certain level of performance that must be met by an athlete in order to compete. They are known as the Olympic A and B standards. You may hear at the Trials, “She only has the B” or “There are two A’s in that event.” They are referring to these standards, not there most recent report cards.
Example: In the men’s 10,000m, the Olympic standards are 27:45.00 for the A and 28:05.00 for the B.
A’s Are More Valuable During an Olympic Year
Based on the USOC’s selection procedure, if there are 2 or more athletes in an event with the A standard, no B will go to the Olympics. B’s will be skipped, even if they defeat those with the A standard at the Trials. This differs from the way World Championship teams are selected.
Example: In 2011, Scott Bauhs secured the B standard for the 10k by running 27:51.78. Bauhs placed 3rd at US Championships one place in front of Bobby Curtis, who earlier in the year had run under the A standard, 27:24,67. Since Bauhs beat Curtis in the US Championships and had the B standard, Bauhs was selected to the World Championship team along with 1st and 2nd place US Championship finishers/A qualifiers Galen Rupp and Matt Tegenkamp (A-A-B).
If qualification for the World Championships followed the USOC’s guidelines, Bauhs and his B standard would have been bypassed and Curtis would have joined Rupp and Tegenkamp in Daegu. (A-A-A)
B’s Have a Realistic Shot at an Olympic Birth In Two Events
As I write this a week before the Trials, there are two events in which B’s have a legitimate shot for a trip to London: women’s Triple Jump (Zero A standards) and Heptathlon (1 A standard). The women’s Javelin, men’s Hammer, Decathlon, men’s Triple Jump and Decathlon currently each have 2 athletes with the A standard. An Olympic qualifier with the B standard seems unlikely from those events, but not impossible if injury befalls an athlete with the A standard.
Here are the scenarios that send an athlete to London with a B standard. If an event has no A standard qualifier, the highest placing B at the Trials will be selected. If an event has exactly one A standard qualifier & a B qualifier places higher than the A, then the B qualifier goes. Not A & B, not multiple B’s, just that one B qualifier.
There Is NO CHASING OF STANDARDS After The Trials
Olympic qualification standards for London 2012 must be achieved between May 1, 2011 and the conclusion of the Olympic Trials.
This rule could lead to some faster, less tactical races in events like the men’s and women’s 1500m and 10,000m, where some notable athletes, such as Dathan Ritzenhein and Alan Webb, hope to attain the Olympic A standard at the Trials.
We’ve created both a PDF and JPEG version of this primer, so you can save it to your computer, download it to your iPhone, iPad or Android for quick reference during the Trials. You can also share the knowledge, via Facebook,Twitter or embed the image on your website.
If you’re a real track geek, here are the links to the official IAAF and USOC documents:
London 2012 Olympic Qualification Standards
United States Olympic Committee Athlete Selection Procedure Form for the Olympic Games
What do you think? Do you think athletes chasing standards will change the complexion of some events?