To 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.
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.