This is the 4th column for Elliott Denman in Budapest 2023, and he is stirring it up!
SLAM THAT Q-ROOM DOOR.
SAY GOODBYE TO TIME QUALIFYING.
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
Close that Q-Room door.
Slam it shut.
And lock it tight, never again to be utilized at a major championship meet.
Well, except – maybe just maybe – for last-minute calls of nature, ice-water storage, or first-aid exigencies.
Daily NBC. CNBC, USA Network, and Peacock programming have shown scene after scene after scene of athletes sprawled all over that sofa “on the bubble” – tell me, who has ever sat on a “bubble” without it collapsing under its own impossibility? – and every time they do it, I squirm. These scenes are worthy only of a goshawful soap opera.
Sometimes, I even scream at Leigh Diffey, Ato Boldon, Kara Goucher, Lewis Johnson & Co. to just think this one out. And discuss.
Folks, we remind you that this is the era of the cutting-edge stadium and the nine-lane track.
At its highest levels in this sport, the good-old eight-lane track is ancient history.
Nine-lane tracks are “de rigor,” and their outer eight are the lanes now mandated for just about everything.
So why-oh-why-oh-why-h do they make such a fuss about “time qualifying” – and those Q-Room visitations – for opening-round, pre-semifinal, and pre-championship-round racing?
Why do they mandate eight-runner finals for the 100-meter dash, 200, 400, 800, 100 and 110-meter high hurdles, and 400-meter hurdles? Oh, and yes, the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
Eight-lane finals are great. It’s truly excellent news that this “flagship sport of the Olympic Games” is generating strong ratings from all who measure those numbers.
And why not?
We’ve been seeing some really riveting stuff out of Budapest from Day One onward..
Blazing speed. Brilliant tactics. A few favorites live up to their press clippings. And a heap of form chart-wreckers, too.
Love it, love it, love it; it’s the whole essence of the world’s
surely-most-popular-and-surely-most-basic individual athletic activity.
But look at the obvious.
If eight is great, nine is finer.
For all races up to 400, crowding or jostling is obviously no problem. Stick to your own designated pathway. OK, lane-one runners must cope with sharper curves. So put the ninth seeds there. OK, there might be a tad more jostling in a nine-runner 800, but isn’t that what global superstars are trained to deal with. Nine-runner 800s? Why not?
(Way–out-there department: Reserve that ninth lane for the hugely-hugely rare-rare possibility of a qualifying-round tie down to the thousandth of a second? Response – tell the brilliant timekeeping technicians: Not good enough. Give us results down to the ten-thousandth of a second.)
Some days ago, I noted a website piece telling us that World Athletics – the sport’s ultimate authority – was acting “to fill vacant lanes.”
It turned out the changes were only referenced to 1500, 3000 (steeplechase), and 5000 races – where previously designated time qualifiers were out and automatic place-winners were guaranteed in.
I’d love to see road race-sized 100s, for example. Hey, World Athletics, how about staging a 50-runner sprint? How? Down the middle of some football field, that’s how.
It isn’t going to happen, of course. Except in some meet – somewhere – staged by some mad sports scientist/brilliant innovator.
So we’ll settle for nine-runner races on the tracks of the majors just ahead. And soon better than later.
Again, the first two-place qualifiers out of three-round events, then the next two qualifying on time?
Make it the first three automatic qualifiers, and no Q-Room. Perfectly arithmetical, perfectly simple, perfectly obvious.
I could conjure up a lot of other innovative things to make this sport more with-it. Hey, Lord Coe, let’s sit down and chat. My people can talk to your people to work out the arrangements.
Anytime at your convenience.