Brannen's mile finish at 2014 Harry Jerome Track Classic
Brannen’s mile finish at 2014 Harry Jerome Track Classic


© Copyright – 2014 – Athletics Illustrated

Canada’s fastest male 1500m runner was not selected to compete in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, not because he is not fast enough, rather because he was not fast enough at the right time of year. Cambridge, Ontario’s Nate Brannen is a two-time Olympian (London and Beijing) and four-time IAAF World Track and Field Championships competitor. While athletes must demonstrate competitive readiness according to Athletics Canada’s qualification criteria, their qualification period does not match the 31-year-old’s training program and for the time of season, the standards are rather fast. The window for qualification started January 1st and ended on June 1st 2014.

According to their published requirements athletes demonstrating “competitive readiness” is defined as the ability of the athlete to achieve equal or superior performance(s) onsite at the scheduled event, as compared to the performance(s) the athlete achieved in qualifying for nomination to the team. An athlete’s competitive readiness will be evaluated in 2 distinct steps before their entry in the Commonwealth Games will be confirmed.

Brannen’s demonstration at the National Track and Field Championships (the scheduled event) that took place in Moncton, New Brunswick on June 29th would require him to run as fast as at least the “B” standard of 3:37, while the “A” standard is 3:35. Canada’s Commonwealth Games standards match the Olympic and World standards. The standards as set by the Commonwealth Games are as slow as 3:40.

The publication, Inside The Games wrote, “English athletes have reacted with incredulity to the announcement of selection standards which could make it harder to qualify for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games than for the Olympics.” Athletics England’s standards are softer than Canada’s at 3:36.00 and 3:38.00, respectively.

Brannen won the national championships, but fell short by finishing in the time of 3:42.50, far outside the established benchmarks. His season’s best was also off the mark at 3:38.36, which he ran on May 15th. “I don’t feel I should have to hit a time in May, to be ready for August,” said the veteran competitor, shortly after his tactical one mile race win (3:57.48) at the Harry Jerome Track Classic on July 10th.

Athletics Canada’s Commonwealth Games published standards also provide the following statement:

The final decision on competitive readiness will be made by the Head Coach by July 1st, using all available information at his disposal including performance results and progress in the final phase, suitability of the training and competition plan, fitness and other competitive readiness indicators, consultation with the athlete’s personal coach, the National Event Group Coach, AC National IST leads, and any other relevant performance related information.

Brannen shared the following “relevant” piece of information with Athletics Illustrated, “I hit the same time as I did last year. I did the same preparation and I opened slightly faster this year. The plan was to be ready for the Commonwealth final, which is August 1st.” Based on his current path, he feels that he would finish top-five or six at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Brannen’s season best over the past five of six years clearly indicate his ability to peak at the right time of year.

2008 – 3:34.88
2009 – 3:34.65
2011 – 3:35.80
2012 – 3:34.22
2013 – 3:36.84

During the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships – a more competitive meet than the Commonwealth Games – saw the final qualifier for the semi-finals run as slow as 3:40.76 by Morocco’s Zakaria Mazouzi. The fastest was Kenyan Asbel Kiprop with his 3:38.15. Brannen qualified for the final with his performance of 3:38.49.

For the finals the slowest qualifier was South Africa’s Johan Cronje who ran just 3:43.71, while Brannen ran the seventh fastest time of 24 athletes with his 3:36.59. Kiprop ended up winning in the time of 3:36.28, while Brannen finished 10th with his 3:38.09.

As it stands, Canada does not have a male competitor in the 1500m distance. Brannen plans to train at home during the Commonwealth Games and then follow that up by competing again in August. Should Brannen race near his top form in Europe, perhaps for the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, all relevant performance related information will be considered in the process of selecting the Canadian team.

The World record is held by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco and stands at 3:26.00 from 1998, while the Olympic record is owned by Kenyan Noah Ngeny at 3:32.07 from the 2000 Sidney Olympic Games. Brannen’s best performance of 3:34.22 happened May 27, 2012 at the Hengelo Fanny Blankers-Koen Games where he finished 8th. The Canadian record is held by Brantford, Ontario’s Kevin Sullivan at 3:31.71 from 2000.

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