an editorial by Hirokazu Ogishima
translated by Brett Larner
At a meeting of its executive committee May 27 in Tokyo, the JAAF made the decision to eliminate the advantage in Olympic and World Championships marathon team selection given to members of its National Team program. The National Team program was launched last spring and is overseen directly by the JAAF's Development Committee, who at the time of the program's inauguration said that members would receive priority in consideration for the 2016 Rio Olympic team. A year later they have flip-flopped and gone in exactly the opposite direction.
At the meeting the JAAF board discussed the organization of this year's National Team, the members of which have not yet been announced. Criteria such as evaluation of athletes' performances over the last year will not change, but Vice-Chairman of Development Katsumi Sakai stated, "At the point in time when we determine Olympic team membership we will not take into consideration whether candidates are member of the National Team program." Board member Toshihiko Seko, who at an earlier board meeting had said, "It would be strange is someone who ran a solid time was not chosen just because they were not in the National Team program," commented, "I think it's a good change. It will give motivation to young athletes who are not members of the National Team program."
The change will help improve competition for the Olympic team by giving more chance for athletes without proven track records to make it, but the National Team program itself remains vague and ill-defined. Last year team members were announced at the start of the fiscal year at the beginning of April, but at this point in the program's second year the Development Committee is still talking to potential members. Vice-Chairman Sakai has said, "Our goal in Rio is to have our athletes finish among the top places. To that end we will offer support for dealing with hot weather and such." Be that as it may, with the National Team program members' advantage in Olympic and World Championships team selection eliminated it is likely that we will see athletes decline to take part in the program.