USATF must fix flawed Olympic selection process that keeps Curtis Thompson off the U.S. team

20160704_gma_al2_103To really appreciate how absurd it is that Sean Furey is a U.S. Olympian in the javelin and Curtis Thompson isn’t, consider this:

–> Furey makes the Olympic team because he threw the javelin 272-5 on June 6, 2015.

–> Thompson doesn’t make the Olympic team because he threw the javelin only 271-11 on July 4, 2016.

Thompson beat Furey by more than 40 feet in the Olympic Trials javelin, but the Florence native — who broke a 16-year-old Olympic Trials record on Monday – will be watching the Olympics on TV with the rest of us next month while Furey – who admittedly has thrown terrible all year — will be in Rio.

Absolutely absurd.

How on Earth do you break the U.S. Olympic Trials MEET RECORD in the javelin and not qualify for the Olympics?

But that’s exactly what happened to Thompson.

If the goal is to put together the best possible Olympic team, the U.S. is going about this completely the wrong way.

Let’s take a look at the Olympic javelin qualifying and how exactly the U.S. got into the position where it’s sending a guy who hasn’t thrown over 250-2 this year instead of a guy who’s thrown 270 feet:

Generally, the top three finishers in each event at the Trials comprise the Olympic team. Pretty simple.

But in the javelin, things are strange. There is an Olympic qualifying standard in every event, and in most events, there are numerous Americans over the standard, so whoever finishes in the top three at the Trials is assured of a berth on the Olympic team.

But in the javelin, the Olympic standard is very tough to reach. In fact, going into this year’s Olympic Trials, the Olympic standard (272-4) was higher than the Olympic Trials meet record (270-4, set in 2000 by Beaux Greer). Which is ridiculous. It essentially renders the Olympic Trials in the javelin meaningless.

Athletes have about 13 months to meet the standard, which seems generous. But with a young, rapidly improving athlete like Thompson, the early portion of that qualifying period doesn’t match up with when he’s throwing his best.

Compare the cases of Furey and Thompson. Furey qualified on the sixth day of the 13-month window — June 6 of last year. More than 13 months ago. In the finals of the Trials, he didn’t throw within 40 feet of the standard.

But Thompson just keeps improving.

He came into his sophomore year at Mississippi State with a PR of 248-1, from last year’s SEC Championships, then proceeded to throw 265-10 at the Florida State Relays, 254-8 to win the NCAA championships and 271-11 on Monday to break the Trials record (which was later broken by Cyrus Hostetler).

That 271-11 made Thompson the No. 16 thrower in U.S. history but it fell five inches short of the Olympic qualifying standard.

In previous years, Thompson would have had the opportunity to get an Olympic qualifier after the trials. And the way he’s throwing, the way he’s improving every meet, nobody would bet against him.

But the USATF eliminated that rule this year. No more chasing marks. If you don’t have a qualifying standard by the end of your event at the Trials, you aren’t going.

Counting secondary throws in various meets, Thompson has at least 30 throws over 230 feet this year. Probably more like 50. Heck, he had five on Monday alone.

Furey has one.

But because of a long throw 13 months ago, he’s going to Rio instead of Thompson.

The situation is so absurd that even Furey – whose best throw this year is 227-10 – kind of acknowledged that Thompson should be headed to Rio instead of him.

“The rules are the rules,” Furey said. “If I make it to the Olympics, I won’t apologize. I’ll go and try to hammer a throw.

“But I also respect Curtis Thompson, who missed the standard by just 12 centimeters (five inches). If he got the (Olympic invite), he deserved it, and I’d root for him.”

Thompson handled the situation with typical class and grace.

“I thought it was enough, but it was 12 centimeters shy from the standard but that’s OK,” he said. “I came here. I wanted to do my best and that’s what I gave. I gave it my all. To PR is actually great. I love it here. The fans here are really supportive. It just gives you that adrenaline.

“It’s not frustrating. It just means you have to come out and have to throw the standard. I’m not upset about my performance. I’m actually really happy about how I performed.”

The whole idea should be to send the athletes to Rio who have the best chance to excel. The way Thompson is improving, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s throwing 280 by late August. Compare that to Furey, who didn’t even throw 230 feet in the Trials finals.

Furey has had a terrific career. He’s a three-time national champion and a two-time Pan Am Games finalist. But Thompson is ranked 29th in the WORLD this year. Furey is ranked 129th in the world this year.

If the goal is to adhere to a bunch of archaic rules and regulations, then Furey is the guy.

If the goal is to send the best possible team to the Olympics, then Curtis Thompson should be on that flight to Rio.




7 thoughts on “USATF must fix flawed Olympic selection process that keeps Curtis Thompson off the U.S. team

  1. John July 7, 2016 / 7:23 pm

    Your argument is sound but what about is it fair to not give someone who has hit the standard when the other guy has never hit the standard. Throwing isn’t always about being the best at 1 meet but it is about having the potential to hit a mark or one at a time or jump a distance. I respect the fact that we should acknowledge those who finish in the top three at the qualifier. No I don’t think the system is that bad because overall you’re going to get the best team at the Olympics if you think we don’t then look at the track and field team that London look at the track and field team in Beijing we may have felt that some people got on that shouldn’t have gone on but those who are supposed to metal for the most part did and many of our athletes broke records and set new records. So hate the system love the system at the end of day it all works out and you get the best of the best of the u.s. and of the world at the Olympics a few athletes fall through the cracks here and there and it sucks butt if you give one person the bid over another are you really being fair.


  2. mylifeismedia July 7, 2016 / 8:37 pm

    Just a small comment Furey did throw over 76 meters on his first and only throw of qualifying which ended up being 250 feet. Not that it makes it any better. I agree that Curtis deserves to be on the team. The olympic standards in the throwing events have been raised in the last 10 years to a far higher standard then any running event.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sjtcaweb July 7, 2016 / 10:29 pm

      My fault on the Furey throw in the qualifying. Good catch, thanks. I fixed it.


  3. ABSURDLY passionate-Javelin-Thrower July 8, 2016 / 12:01 am

    I guess I understand your point.. However I think you do a poor job reporting when you focus very little on the fact that 83m is the qualifying standard to make the games. Huge throw for Thompson, not trying to take anything away from that.

    The athletes that were selected for Rio were the only 3 athletes that had satisfied the selection criteria. Even you acknowledge this, so I have a hard time agreeing with anything in this article. Track and Field is cut and dry..everything is measured in absolute values whether it’s a clock or a tape. Thompson had great performance but wasn’t able to better the three other athletes that met the IAAF Selection Criteria for a Rio.

    Instead of focusing on how it’s “absurd” that Thompson failed to meet the Olympic Qualification Criteria, why not focus on the hard work and dedication it took for the javelin throwers that met the criteria. Hostetler, Crouser and Furey are Olympians. Congrats to them!


  4. David July 8, 2016 / 12:17 am

    It is a difficult situation, but the Olympic qualification window closes on July 11th. Where would Curtis compete at in the next three days to obtain the standard? The reason athletes aren’t permitted to chase the standard this time as opposed to previous years is because the Trials end when the qualification window ends. Curtis’ only hope in this case would be an invitation by the IAAF.


  5. Kara Winger July 8, 2016 / 12:39 pm

    I think Curtis and Sean showed a lot more class in the aftermath of the competition than spectators on the Internet are showing by vilifying Sean. Awesome throw for Curtis and awesome improvement by him this year, but he knew exactly what it would take to make the Olympic team, and his interview is evidence that he understands how close he came but that it wasn’t quite enough. Sean is an excellent human being and fierce competitor, who has been hampered by factors you don’t know anything about this year so far. He knows his performance was sub-par, but he also has more experience than anyone in that field at the international level and knows how to step up at big meets. Either guy has what it takes at the highest level, but to say for certain that Curtis will continue improving after a long NCAA season and Sean won’t improve after taking the opportunity to rest a lot of the spring is silly. This is sports. Drama and unpredictability are cornerstones, and every single athlete is different in their process.

    There are chase periods after USAs in World Championship years, NOT Olympic years. The same was true in 2012 (no chase period after Olympic Trials), and Sam Humphreys and Sam Crouser bore the brunt of that rule, as they finished first and second in Eugene, but neither had the standard. The Olympic standards that are set are IAAF-implemented, NOT USATF’s decision. It is not USATF’s job to overrule IAAF procedures to put someone who doesn’t have the A on the team over someone who does. They can’t. Olympic qualification windows are much longer than World Championship windows, even with chase periods in those World Championship years extending past USAs. If athletes like Curtis have steadfast goals of making an Olympic team, they’re well aware of the entry procedures. The black and white nature of the selection process puts our fate firmly in our hands, and I for one prefer it that way. Please let these athletes speak for themselves, as they’ve done well and humbly.


  6. Greg M July 8, 2016 / 4:27 pm

    So we should base our entire selection process on quite possibly our worst event? An event where hardly anyone in the US even meets the (minimal) Olympic standard?


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