Tokyo Postponement Throws Olympic Qualification Process into Confusion

  • By Song Won-hyung

    March 26, 2020 10:35

    It has finally been decided that this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it is likely to throw the sports world into confusion, let alone disappoint athletes who have trained very hard to be at their absolute best for the quadrennial event.

    Each sport has its own system to select qualifiers for the Olympics. Athletes usually amass points at various competitions throughout the Olympic season, or compete in preliminary rounds until one month prior to the Olympics. But the postponement has complicated this process.

    According to the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee, 157 Korean athletes qualified for the Olympics in 19 sports by March 10. Will they retain their berths after the postponement?

    Kim Young-chan at the committee said, "When IOC President Thomas Bach and Korean Olympic officials held a video conference on March 19, they talked about maintaining qualification for 57 percent of the athletes who have already secured their place at the Olympics."

    However, the situation may be different for team sports such as baseball and football, and for sports such as archery in which countries, not individuals, earn berths. Athletes currently on a national team may not be a year from now due to age or for other reasons.

    In football, for instance, players under 23 are eligible to compete, with three wild card selections allowed. Now that the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for a year, footballers born after Jan. 1, 1998 will be eligible unless an exception is made given unusual circumstances. That means almost half of the players in Korea's current U-23 team may have to be replaced.

    In athletics, Korea qualified for the men and women's marathon, men's racewalking, and men's pole vault. However, the qualifying standards may get higher over the next year, as athletes improve their records. A staff at the Korea Association of Athletics Federations said, "Athletes who have already qualified for the Olympics might need to fulfill more requirements in order to maintain their spots, or more berths could be offered."

    For sports that delayed preliminary Olympic qualification rounds, such as badminton, boxing, fencing, judo and wrestling, each international governing body will have to decide what to do and how to do it. 

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