translated by Brett Larner
April 18, 2017
Japan Association of Athletics Federations
1. Selection Policy
With the aim of winning medals at the Olympic Games, we will select a Japanese national team comprised of athletes who have demonstrated the capability to perform at the maximum of their abilities in key race situations and who possess the speed necessary to compete at the world level.
2. Selection Competitions
( 1 ) Marathon Grand Champion Race (referred to hereafter as MGC Race), scheduled to be held Sept. 2019 or later
( 2 ) MGC Series
1 ) Men
・71st and 72nd Fukuoka International Marathon
・Tokyo Marathon 2018 and 2019
・73rd and 74th Biwako Mainichi Marathon・67th and 68th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018
・3rd and 4th Saitama International Marathon
・37th and 38th Osaka International Women's Marathon
・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2018 and 2019
・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018
( 3 ) MGC Final Challenge
・73rd Fukuoka International Marathon
・Tokyo Marathon 2020
・75th Biwako Mainichi Marathon
・5th Saitama International Marathon
・39th Osaka International Women's Marathon
・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2020
・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018
3. Selection Criteria
Based on the above organization policy, Japanese national representatives will be selected in the following order of priority.
( 1 ) Winner of the MGC Race.
( 2 ) From among the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the MGC Race, the higher-placing finisher who has cleared the MGC Race Selection Time Standard.
( 3 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion ( 2 ), the 2nd-place finisher in the MGC Race.
( 4 ) The highest-ranked competitor from among athletes who clear the MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard. However, this is subject to having run in (finished) MGC Series races or having qualified for the MGC Race.
( 5 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion (4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finishers in the MGC Race not meeting selection criterion ( 2 ).
4. Selection Procedure
( 1 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 1 ), ( 2 ) and ( 3 ) will be immediate upon the completion of the MGC Race.
( 2 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 4 ) and ( 5 ) will be immediate upon the completion of all designated men's and women's MGC Final Challenge races.
5. Selection Time Standards
( 1 ) MGC Race Selection Time Standard
time: Men: 2:05:30 women: 2:21:00
eligible period: Aug. 1, 2017 to Apr. 30, 2019
eligible competitions: Races certified by the IAAF as world record-elligible.
( 2 ) MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard
time: To be determined by the Development Committee following the closure of qualification for the MGC Race. Scheduled to be announced in May, 2019.
eligible competitions: MGC Final Challenge
6. Alternate Athletes
( 1 ) In the event that an athlete is selected according to selection criterion ( 4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finisher in the MGC Race who was not selected to the Olympic Team and the 4th-place finisher will be selected as alternates.
( 2 ) In the event that no athlete is selected according to selection criterion (4 ), the 4th and 5th-place finishers in the MGC Race will be selected as alternates.
7. MGC Race Qualification
Athletes who meet the following conditions will be granted qualification for the MGC Race.
( 1 ) MGC Series (2017 and 2018 fiscal years)
Athletes who satisfy the following requirements for Japanese finisher placing and time in the specified races. Athletes who have already qualified for the MGC Race will not be included in the Japanese finisher placings. [click to enlarge]
1 ) Men
2 ) Women
( 2 ) Wildcard
1 ) Athletes who meet either of the following two criteria in any competition certified by the IAAF as world record-eligible between Aug. 1, 2017 and Apr. 30, 2019.
(1) Men who run faster than 2:08:30 and women who run faster than 2:24:00.
(2) Men who average faster than 2:11:00 and women who average faster than 2:28:00 in their two fastest marathons within the eligible period above.
2 ) Athletes who finish in the top 8 at the 16th World Championships (London, 2017)
3 ) Athletes who finish in the top 3 at the 18th Asian Games (Jakarta, 2018)
4 ) If not a single athlete meets the MGC Race qualifying standards due to weather or other conditions in any MGC Series competition, the Development Committee may designate individual athletes as having run the equivalent of the standards.
( 1 ) In the event that any selected athlete is unable to demonstrate adequate fitness prior to the Olympic Games due to injury or other issues, they will be replaced on the National Team by designated alternates.
( 2 ) The above selection requirements will be confirmed pending finalization of the Olympic participation qualifications stipulated by the IOC and IAAF.
( 3 ) The Olympic Games marathons will be held in Tokyo between July 31 and Aug. 9, 2020.
This is the JAAF's attempt to move toward a U.S.-style one-shot Olympic Trials race for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To summarize, within the next two years Japanese athletes have to run sub-2:11 or sub-2:28, tweaked for a few tougher races, in major domestic marathons, sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24 in overseas marathons, or place well at the 2017 London World Championships or 2018 Jakarta Asian Games in order to get into the Olympic Trials race, aka the MGC Race. With a few provisions for fast times, basically the top two at the MGC Race will be named to the Olympic team.
The timing of the MGC Race during the 2019-20 winter season means that the existing series of selection races, designated above as the MGC Final Challenge, would be made irrelevant to 2020 selection. Given that the JAAF relies heavily on those races for sponsor income, they've inserted a wildcard option for the third spot on each team to keep that season's races meaningful. Anyone who clears TBA standards that season in the MGC Final Challenge races will pick up the third spot, which will go to the 3rd-placer at the MGC Race if nobody runs fast enough.
A few observations:
- The Tokyo Marathon, the fastest women's marathon in Japan, remains mostly excluded as an option for Japanese women to make national teams. This year the top Japanese woman in Tokyo, Ayaka Fujimoto, was 4th overall in 2:27:08, a performance that would meet the qualifying standards for any of the four women's MGC Series races. However, while it has been impossible for Japanese women to make a national team in Tokyo, the new procedure does introduce a window: if a Japanese woman clears 2:24:00 in Tokyo, a record-eligible course, or averages under 2:28:00 between Tokyo and one other race, she will qualify for the MGC Race under the wildcard provisions.
- Overseas races are also largely excluded from the selection process. Although Japanese athletes can theoretically qualify for the MGC Race by running sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24:00 at record-eligible overseas races, only eight Japanese men and five Japanese women have ever run those times abroad, the most recent being Yuki Kawauchi at the 2013 Seoul International Marathon and Mizuki Noguchi at the 2005 Berlin Marathon.
- If run during the eligible period, high-level World Marathon Major performances such as Yukiko Akaba's 3rd-place finish at the 2013 London Marathon in 2:24:43 or Suguru Osako's 3rd-place debut earlier this week at the Boston Marathon in 2:10:28 would not by themselves qualify the athletes for the MGC Race under the wildcard criteria, not being fast enough or, in Osako's case, not having been run on a record-elligible course. For the same reason Osako's time would also not count toward the two-race average option.
- There is a wild disparity in the men's and women's time standards. The Japanese men's NR is 2:06:16, 3:19 off the WR. The women's NR is 2:19:12, 3:47 off the WR. Three Japanese men have run 2:06 times and three Japanese women 2:19, showing that the records are reasonably equivalent. To qualify for the MGC Race, men must run within 4:44 of the NR, while in the main races women only have to run within 9:48 of the NR. For the MGC Race Selection Time Standard Japanese men have to run more than 46 seconds faster than the NR, a time no non-African-born runner has ever run on a record-elligible course, while women have to run within 1:48 of the NR. Given the lower numbers of female athletes this is no doubt intended to produce roughly equal numbers of competitors in the men's and women's MGC Races, but the fact remains that the barrier to making the Olympic team has been set far higher for Japanese men.
- While the qualifying standards for the U.S. Olympic Trials are arguably over-inclusive, the MGC Race standards will result in very small fields of around fifteen men and fifteen women. In the last two-year period equivalent to the above window of eligibility, sixteen men and fifteen women met the qualifying standards. Applying the same window to the 2016 Rio Olympics, fourteen men and twelve women qualified.
- Dependent upon the TBA MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard, Hisanori Kitajima, the last-placing member of the Rio men's team, would not have made the Olympic team or even qualified for the MGC Race under the new procedure. The new system is designed in part to keep inexperienced athletes like Kitajima who make a breakthrough in the Olympic year off the team.
- The exclusion of the 2019 Doha World Championships from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics selection procedure makes running on the national team at Doha a major minus for any top-level Japanese athletes. Given that a strong performance in heat in Doha might be a good indicator of success in the Tokyo heat a year later it seems reasonable that there might be provisions for being named to the Tokyo team, or, as is the case for the Jakarta Asian Games at least the MGC Race, in the event of medalling in Doha, or for wildcard qualification for the MGC Race for a top eight finish in Doha the same way that has been designated for London. As a result, the Doha marathon teams may be weakest Japanese marathon squads in modern history.
- The MGC Race is likely be held on the Tokyo Olympics course during the winter. The U.S. Trials for Rio in L.A. did a good job of finding people who could perform in similarly warm and sunny conditions at the Olympics. The JAAF could stand to learn from that example and hold the MGC Race somewhere warm like Okinawa, Honolulu or Guam. Like the U.S. Trials, pairing it with Okinawa's ~15,000-runner Naha Marathon or the ~20,000 runner Honolulu Marathon, holding the MGC Race on Saturday on a loop course so that the people running the mass-participation race the next day can come out to cheer, would go a long way toward maximizing the event's popularity along with allowing an approximation of the conditions runners will face at the Olympics.