Will We See Another Arab In The Triathlon At The Tokyo Olympics? (by Lawrence Fanous)
The Olympic Qualification criteria has finally been released (click here to see it). This spurred me to ask the question: is it possible for another Arab triathlete to qualify for Tokyo 2020?
I have written a blog post before trying to simplify the Olympic Qualification process, but it is very difficult to do and I will not attempt it again! Instead, I will look more generally at Arabs in the ITU triathlon rankings and discuss if, in my opinion, it is possible. Remember that I still have qualification for Tokyo in my mind and I am kind of giving it away for any of my rivals to read, but I am serious when I say I will be happy to see ANYONE from an Arab country qualify for the Games!
We had the exciting news that Tokyo 2020 will be the first Games where there will be another medal in triathlon with the Mixed Team Relay being added to the programme. This is a great step for triathlon and gives the sport more exposure at the pinnacle of triathlon competition. But, while it has made it harder for some countries to qualify, I believe that for smaller triathlon National Federations (NFs), such as Arab federations, it has actually made it easier. So, that is great news and I will explain why.
We only need to concentrate on Africa and Asia because this is where all Arab countries are.
Because of the inclusion of the relay, it means that any NF which qualifies a team for the relay automatically has 2 qualifying places for the individual event. There is a good chance that South Africa and China could qualify teams as well as Japan, who also have a guaranteed place as they are the host nation. So, for the 5 places chosen from the World Ranking (1 from each continent) this could take these countries out of the equation.
At the moment, however, there are only 5 men and 3 women from Arab countries represented in the World Ranking at all, and only 1 man who is eligible - Badr Siwane from Morocco. First, we need to see Arab athletes climbing the World Ranking. To do this they need to win points in African and Asian Championships and Continental Cups, as well as WTS and World Cups, if possible. But because the African and Asian Championships are usually much easier and they have a lot of points on offer, then this is where Arab triathletes must try to focus their energy. Athletes from Europe, Oceania and Americas are not allowed to race these races, so it gives Arab athletes a better chance to win points.
Arab athletes then need to be smart in choosing Continental Cups to win points from easier races - such as early and late season races. At these times, other athletes are either not racing yet as it is early in the season or they are too tired at the end of the season. Also, races that are hard to get to or expensive are good places to win “easy points”.
Next, Arab athletes must aim at getting to the top 180 in the World Ranking as this is the MINIMUM requirement to be able to qualify for the Games at all. This is another reason why it is easier in Tokyo. In Rio 2016 the minimum ranking was 140. By the time Olympic qualifying is finished on May 11th 2020, we need to see Arab athletes at position 180 or better.
By looking at the current rankings, only using ranked athletes and by using my knowledge of countries who can likely qualify, these are the countries who I believe are fighting for Olympic places:
• In Africa: Morocco, Egypt, Namibia, Mauritius and Zimbabwe. Namibia is in the lead in the men’s. There are currently no women eligible from Africa in the women’s ranking.
• In Asia: Jordan, Palestine, Syria, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Taipei and the Philippines. Hong Kong is in the lead in the men’s and women’s ranking.
These are the countries that Arab nation athletes must concentrate on beating in races. This can change of course. There may be talented athletes from countries I have not mentioned that I don’t know about yet but that is how I see it.
It is possible for Arab triathletes to do it, in my opinion, but we have a lot of work to do. With the right training and race planning, any talented athlete can do it. But, first, the system needs to be understood and we need to know who our main competitors are.
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