We Are AC: A Look into the Canadian Triple Jump Standard
August 11, 2014
A couple of weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook:
After posting it, I was encouraged to forward my concerns to the Athletics Canada athlete representatives so that the right people can answer my questions and address my concerns. Over the past few weeks, I’ve done a lot of research regarding event standards vs. competition results. As I continue to do research, I grow increasingly frustrated as it doesn’t make sense to me where these standards are coming from. I do not feel as though the triple jump standard for various teams is comparable to the standards for some other events. In the same way that actions speak louder than words, I think facts speak louder than opinions. Am I frustrated? Yes – but that of course isn’t a reason to warrant change. Statistics, on the other hand, should be. I’m no expert on the way things should be run but after doing some research, it’s clear by looking at the numbers that something is not right, and this of course should be something that is of importance to the national governing body for our sport. That is why I took the time to collect this information and send it their way.
I want to start off by saying that I know Athletics Canada is on our – the athletes – side. I know that Athletics Canada is not the enemy, but the solution. They have a difficult job – I know standards are meant to be tough. I also want to say that I understand that there may be a few other events where if the same comparisons were done that standard would seem unfair. I’m just looking at the women’s triple jump standard as this alone was a ton of work.I hope this doesn’t come off as some woe-is-me-my-life-is-so-hard-as-a-triple-jumper pity seeking type thing. My objective is really just to get some facts out there so I can bring some obvious issues regarding women’s triple jump standards for various teams to light. My ultimate goal is that these matters will be discussed, changes will be made and eventually, the state of the event will be improved.
My focus this year was making the NACAC U23 team. The Canadian women’s triple jump standard for the NACAC U23 Championships was 13.20m. This is surprising given the fact that at the 2012 NACAC U23 Championships, a jump of 13.14m won the competition. Meaning, the standard to make the team was higher than that which actually won the competition at the last championships. As my coach Vickie Croley worded it in an email to Athletics Canada after making an appeal, “It’s tough for us to accept how a National Champion with a performance (13.06m) that would have won a medal in 2012 (gold was 13.14m, silver was 13.12m and 12.62m was bronze) was not selected. All of these performances and the bronze medal performance from 2010 (13.14m) is still less than our standard of 13.20m. If we want to win medals I don’t understand where this standard came from”.
I wanted to see if this was the case in any other events or if this situation is unique to women’s triple jump. I compared the qualifying standard to get onto the team to what performance actually medalled at the 2012 NACAC championships. I looked at multiple events, but I excluded distance events for the fact that these races are sometimes tactical at the championships and thus slower.
2012 NACAC U23 Championships
Evidently, there is a simple pattern. In the events that I looked at, the standard to get onto the team is less than what was required to earn a medal at the 2012 championships. This however, is not the case for triple jump. The argument can of course be made that 2012 happened to be a weak year in women’s triple jump at NACAC. In order to determine this, I looked at the results over a longer duration of time:
Again, it becomes evident that there is a pattern. The standard of these events is never more than 100% of the performance that is required in order to obtain a bronze medal. Once again, this is not true for triple jump, as the standard of 13.20m is further than the average bronze medal performance of 13.12m.
I also decided to calculate how many points the NACAC standards from various events obtain using a Mercier table – a method of comparing track and field events at an equal level. I wasn’t sure which one was most suitable so I used both. I also used the IAAF Scoring Table (2014).
Regardless of what Mercier table is used, the NACAC women’s triple jump standard obtains more points than the standards of other events. Using the IAAF Scoring Table, it ranks fourth compared to the other event standards.
The fact that NACAC does not set guidelines for standards and each country is free to determine their own selection criteria only makes this all the more frustrating, because I’m not sure what this 13.20m mark is based off of. For example, The United States was fully represented with 2 athletes in all 40 events, as they did not have qualification standards to get onto the team. They simply selected the top 2 ranked athletes in each event who were the required age (born in 1992, 1993, or 1994). I believe that it would have added to the competitive experience if the host country (us) did the same thing. This also would have helped with the fact that in some events at this years championships, there were as few as two athletes competing.
Note: I wrote this before the 2014 NACAC Championships which were held this past weekend in Kamloops. I wanted to add that at this competition, only the winner surpassed that 13.20m mark. A jump of 13.19m was silver, and 12.80m was bronze. There were only four females in the competition.
My frustration continues with the conclusion of women’s triple jump at the Commonwealth Games. As stated in my initial Facebook post above, the B standard to get onto the team was 14.20m while the A standard was 14.40m. A jump of 13.07m was required to make the finals and a jump of 14.21m ended up winning. Once again, someone’s initial thought may be that perhaps it was just a weak year of competition. However, at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a jump of 14.19m won the competition. Meaning once again, the B standard to even get onto the team was further than what it took to win gold (let alone a medal at all). Even going back to the 2006 Commonwealth Games, although a jump of 14.39m won the competition, 13.53m came second and 13.42m was third.
Out of all eighteen female triple jumpers competing at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, leading into the games none had even surpassed the mark of 14.20m in 2014. Even when looking at lifetime bests, only one of the athletes competing at the Games has jumped further than 14.20m before. So again I ask, why is this the decided upon standard? Why are female triple jumpers required to be better than literally everyone else in the competition in order to even have the chance to compete?
Evidently, the standards for these two highlighted competitions alone need to be reconsidered, but how do the standards line up in a more general sense? Here is how the B standards from the 2013 World Championships compare to where that mark would actually rank an athlete achieving that mark in the world these past few years. I stuck with field and hurdle events as I realize that there are more athletes participating in the sprinting and distance events to begin with, and I left out the multi-events as I also realize there are fewer people competing in these events. Finally, I also excluded pole vault and high jump as there are often 20+ different athletes jumping the same distance so the rankings can become a little messy. I know it is difficult to compare across different events, but the results are rather interesting.
Here is the same information in a graph.
Regardless of whether or not these differences are anything of significance, it becomes clear that the women’s B standard in triple jump consistently ranks higher in the world than the B standard of the other events that were looked at.
The Canadian record in triple jump is 13.99m, held by Tabia Charles. Women’s triple jump, along with men’s long jump, are the only two events in which the standard to compete at a major international event (14.20m) surpasses the Canadian Record (13.99m). What this screams to athletes is, “If you want to ever represent Canada at a Commonwealth, World Championships or Olympics, you need to be better than anyone has ever been in the history of that event in this country”. I understand that these standards should be difficult in order to form a competitive team, but when it’s something that has never been done before, it really just makes the standard seem all the more impossible. When the women’s triple jump standard is compared to standards in other events that 14.20m standard already seems unreasonable.
I really hope that with the Pan Am Games being held in Toronto next year, the points that I bring up in this piece are considered. At the last Pan Am Games in 2011, a jump of 13.06m made the finals in women’s triple jump. There are currently two women in Canada jumping that distance. Yet, the B standard to be on the team was 14.00m in 2011. For the 2014 Commonwealth team, exceptions were made in order to have two different athletes on the team. They did not have standard but because of their high rankings within the Commonwealth, they were named to the team. This proved to be a good decision as both went on to win medals for Canada. Two medallists who otherwise, without exceptions being made, would’ve been left at home. What does this really say about the standards in the first place? I hope that leading into the Pan Am Games, rankings will be closely monitored in all events in a similar manner in order to ensure that we aren’t leaving possible finalists and medallists behind – especially with the event being held in Canada.
In 2001, Michelle Hastick was selected to represent Canada in triple jump at the World Championships as the event was being held in Edmonton. That was the first and last time that Canada was represented at a World Championship or Olympic Games in women’s triple jump. I imagine this drought will continue if this standard is not more closely monitored and seriously re-evaluated. Women’s triple jump is probably one of the weakest events in Canada right now – but in no way should this mean that it is completely overlooked. Just like in every other event, the athletes are working tirelessly to try to make it to the international level to represent Canada. If we continue to be held to a standard that is higher than other events and higher than what is even required to win the entire competition at hand, I’m not sure that we will see improvements in this event anytime soon. With every competition that goes by with a standard that isn’t realistic or fair, athletes are losing more and more vital experience on the world stage. It should also be noted that Canada’s non-existent presence in triple jump at the international level does not help promote the event to youth and junior aged athletes, certainly not helping the case and thus creating a catch 22 scenario.
I realize that it isn’t always feasible to have a team in with representation in every event. I am aware there are often team-size and funding limitations. I’m not saying that Canada should have a triple jumper at every major international competition or that we should lower the standard just for the sake of a triple jumper making a team and gaining some experience. What I am saying is that these standards should be fair. Right now, after learning everything that I have through intensive research, I can say with confidence that this not is the case. Standards should be the same across the board for all events, whether that means they are a percentage of world ranking from the previous year, what it takes to medal based on history over a certain period of time, or a combination of both. Regardless of how these standards are determined, I just think they need to be fair and completely transparent through all events. In the future, it might be helpful to state in the selection criteria where the standards come from so that athletes and coaches can see that those selected to the team are determined in a fair manor across all events.
I didn’t do this research and take the time to write this because I want to make a team and I think that a lower standard is the only way for me to achieve that. This isn’t about me. I am doing this for the sake of the event as a whole in this country. I am a very passionate person who loves this sport an awful lot. I also hope that this piece will open up the lines of communication and that athletes in other events who have questions or concerns about their own standards can feel comfortable bringing those issues to light. I said I was going to try to leave my feelings and opinions out of it, but I want to conclude by saying this: as someone in the event, I can’t quite put into words how dejecting it is to be jumping a full meter less than what is required to ever be on a team. As I struggle to improve centimeter by centimeter, I can’t help but wonder some days what on earth I’m doing to myself. There is of course onus on me – I can work harder, I can be better, I can jump further. I certainly don’t expect anything to be handed to me. But, I would really like for this number – this seemingly unreachable number that I am committing my entire life to attaining – to make sense to me.
Thank you for reading some of my findings. I trust that Athletics Canada will provide an answer to how these standards are established, consider my research and make appropriate changes for fair qualifying procedures for all events for future National teams.
PS. Special thanks to my coach Vickie Croley who helped me with this piece.