April 2009
WHEN I WROTE ABOUT THE OLYMPIC TRIALS last month, I never dreamed I’d still be on that subject in this issue. It was with great surprise that I learned that USATF’s Task Force has recommended halving this great meet (see p. 25).

To be sure, my fondness with the full-format OT isn’t shared by everyone, as this months Letters To The Editor (see p. 49) and talk on the T&FN chatroom indicate, but I remain steadfast in my belief that in terms of the big picture that format is best for the sport.

How can anyone support a program that would effectively halve the amount of TV coverage the meet would get?

How can one believe that the “pressure” of a 10-day Trials overwhelms the athletes? Seems to me that the pressure is almost solely related to what the meet is, and that virtually all athletes would have similar mental letdowns after making the team whether the process was 10 days or 10 hours.

And the picture that’s being painted of the 10-day pressure-cooker being the norm for all athletes is, of course, completely false. I don’t believe any jumper, thrower or multi-eventer in team contention competed on both weekends in Eugene. Nor did any hurdler, or anybody— other than Bernard Lagat—running a distance between 400 meters and the steeplechase [note: this column originally overlooked Lopez Lomong here]. That leaves us with those few who wanted 5/10 doubles or the 100/200. In all, I suspect you’re talking about fewer than 20 athletes.

For this we should blow up a format that has served us so well all these years? And what do you think is tougher on a doubling sprinter? The 6 rounds in 4 days at the WC Trials or 8 rounds in 9 days at the OT? Lagat should do his double in 5 days instead of 10? Seems counterproductive to me.

The real losers in any reduced-days package? The jumpers & throwers (and multi-eventers). The amount of attention they’ll get from the announcers and the crowd will be markedly reduced. For many, their only moment in the sun ever.

But hey, I’m not irrevocably wedded to the 10-day concept. The mimicking of the OG is a concept whose time has come and gone. Four-round sprints are pointless, particularly when almost nobody is dropped in the heats. Cuts can certainly be made.

To me, it’s the salvaging of the second weekend that’s crucial. So, instead of the proposed 5-day meet, allow me to suggest a 6-day meet staged over two weekends (see chart). Two terrific weekends of track & field.

Eminently watchable Fridays, then two Saturdays and Sundays each guaranteed to pack the stands and be sellable to TV.

Indeed, I’d recommend this as the proper way to go in the World Championships Trials years as well.
A 6-Day, 2-Weekend Trials

Weekend 1:
m/w100—heats Fri, semis/final Sat; m/w400—heats Fri, semis Sat, final Sun; m/w1500—heats Fri, final Sun; m5K—heats Fri, final Sun; w10K—final Fri; m/w110H—heats Fri, semis/final Sat; 20W—final Fri;

mHJ—Q Fri, final Sat; wPV—Q Fri, final Sun; mLJ—Q Fri, final Sun; wTJ—Q Fri, final Sat; mSP—Q/final Fri; wDT—Q Sat, final Sun; mHT—Q Fri, final Sat; wJT—Q Sat, final Sun; mDec—Fri/Sat.

Weekend 2:
m/w200—heats Fri, semis Sat, final Sun; m/w800—heats Fri, semis Sat, final Sun; m/wSt—heats Fri, final Sun; w5K—heats Fri, final Sun; m10K—final Fri; m/w400H—heats Fri, semis Sat, final Sun; 20W—final Fri;

wHJ—Q Fri, Final Sat; mPV—Q Fri, final Sun; wLJ—Q Fri, final Sat; mTJ—Q Fri, final Sun; wSP—Q/final Fri; mDT—Q Sat, final Sun; wHT—Q Fri, final Sat; mJT—Q Sat, final Sun; wHept—Fri/Sat.