Insane qualification rules for the Olympics

For those who have been paying attention to the Olympic Trials and who’s going to Tokyo and who isn’t, there’s a newsletter called The Lap Count whose latest issue has several stories outlining just how insane the qualification rules can be.

This was a week ⏱ - by The Lap Count - The Lap Count

For instance, in the high jump:

Why must we always insist on making the simplest sport so complicated? Inika McPherson tries to jump over a bar without knocking it over. She is one of the best in the world at it, and if you’ve ever watched her clear the bar, you know she should be going to Tokyo. But an algorithm and some weird rules have decided otherwise. Try to follow me:

  1. The Olympic Standard in the Women’s High Jump is 1.96m
  2. The United States can send up to 3 athletes to the Olympics
  3. Selection is made dependent on placement at the US Trials
  4. *If an athlete doesn’t have the Olympic Standard they can be selected if their ranking places them within an event’s quota (32 in the HJ).**4b. Rankings are determined by an average of the 5 best point performances based off of height achieved, the competition’s category level and finishing place.*4c. There is a maximum of 3 athletes per country that can be represented within the quota
  5. USATF takes the top 3 athletes at the Olympic Trials who are eligible according to World Athletics
  6. Vashti Cunningham won and qualifies with the standard.
  7. Nicole Greene finished 3rd, but does not have the ranking or standard and therefore does not qualify.
  8. Rachel McCoy finished 4th and qualifies with the standard.
  9. Inika McPherson finished 2nd and is “ranked” 27th in the world.
  10. There are athletes who are ranked behind Inika but jumped the standard. They’re placed in front of her on the descending order list.
  11. Inika is the first out of the top 32 by 1 point! She is not eligible despite having jumped higher than multiple individuals ranked ahead. (Reminder: Ranking is an average of 5 performances)
  12. The 31st ranked jumper, Airine Palsyte (Lithuania) cleared the standard of 1.96m in 2018, but it doesn’t count for her Olympic Standard because it was outside the qualifying window. It does however count for her ranking.
  13. *Tynita Butts-Townsend was 14th at the Olympic Trials and does not have the standard, but is ranked 30th and therefore qualifies.

It is not USATF’s fault that Inika was not selected for the team despite her finishing higher than Tynita at the Trials. Under World Athletics rules, Inika was not eligible as she was outside the quota (see 4c.). The suggestion that if USATF scratched Tynita then Inika would be eligible to go is against all protocol. And it is a matter in order of operations: USATF looks at the field of eligible athletes and then takes the top 3 from that population.

Does this seem like a simple sport?