Winki Studios, a business in the solar installation industry based in Torquay, Australia, launched a petition to World Athletics.

The petition asks World Athletics to add the number of positions in the marathon equal to the number of displaced athletes affected by the opening up of “universality spots.” Which was created to support nations where no athletes have achieved the rigorous 2024 Paris Olympic Standards.

Rather than having a simple process, such as each nation sending their three best athletes who better a standard, athletes are ranked globally and earn points in competition toward their ranking. Also, some countries have Trials. Some countries do not.

World Athletics has added 20 universality positions to the Paris Olympic marathon fields. Some athletes who looking “qualified” may now be set adrift. Eleven were added to the men’s field and nine to the women’s.

The petition

“We call on World Athletics to reconsider the recent decision to replace 10 deserving athletes, who qualified through the world rankings, with universality athletes for the upcoming Paris Olympics marathon. The universality places should have been granted in ADDITION to the athletes who qualified through the standard route.

This move, made at the 11th hour, has not only undermined the efforts and aspirations of these athletes but also compromised the principles of fairness and transparency in the athletics community.”

The Issue
World Athletics allocated “universality” places—intended for nations without any qualified athletes—to 11 competitors. This allocation has unexpectedly displaced 10 athletes who had secured their spots through the world rankings, believing they had successfully qualified for the Paris Olympics. Those affected include:

  • Hugo CATRILEO [Chile]
  • Elroy GELANT [South Africa]
  • Leonard KORIR [USA]
  • Liam ADAMS [Australia]
  • Samuel Tsegay TESFAMARIAM [Sweden]
  • Abdi Ali GELELCHU [Bahrain]
  • Tachlowini GABRIYESOS [Athlete Refugee team]
  • Il Ilham Tanui ÖZBILEN [Turkey]
  • Ser-Od BAT-OCHIR (this would have been his 6th Olympic marathon) [Mongolia]

The Women’s Athletics field contains 97 athletes. These include nine universality places. There is certainly room to expand the men’s field to 91 and allow those 10 displaced athletes to compete.

How universality works

World Athletics’ aim in Dec. 2022 was for 50 per cent of qualifiers in the men’s and women’s marathons to come through the entry standard. Fifty per cent through world rankings. However, with the current picture, neither the men’s nor women’s marathons are expected to see qualifiers from the world rankings. So much for good intentions.

In terms of Universality places, any National Olympic Committee that has no qualified athlete will be allowed to enter their best-ranked male or female athlete in the marathon. Therefore, like the Aussie men and Korir for the USA, slower runners will be competing in their place this summer — ouch.

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