In the build-up to the GSSE in Iceland, the Maltese Olympic Committee was reported as saying that they had established the Minimum Qualifying Standards for selection according to bronze medal level in each discipline from Luxembourg 2013.
However, at least in the case of athletics, that is not factual as these few examples clearly show.
In the men’s 200m, 800m and long jump, the 2015 MQSs set by the MOC were of a higher standard than the gold medal winning times of the 2013 GSSE.
In the men’s 400m, the MOC standard was equivalent to the winning time in Luxembourg.
In relays, all 2015 MQSs were equivalent to the silver medal winning performances in 2013.
In men’s events alone, the MQS was better than the bronze medal winner of 2013 in the 100m, 1,500m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles, and high jump.
In women’s events, the 2015 MQSs were better than the third-best in the 2013 GSSE in the 1,500m, 10,000m, 100m hurdles, long jump, triple jump, shot, and pole vault events.
Furthermore, there were other inconsistencies in the MQSs determined by the MOC.
For instance, the 2015 MQS for the women’s 800m was slower than the time achieved for fourth place in Luxembourg.
What led the MOC to opt for such levels of standard is not clear.
In this regard, during a technical meeting with the MOC we proposed that standards should be modified on the basis of a system that has a certain degree of statistical validity and reliability.
However, the MOC did not accept discussion about the possibility of reviewing the 2015 MQSs.
Meanwhile, the MOC also made reference to ‘a small group who just missed out but (who) were also included’ in the squad.
This is probably understandable but questionable as to why a larger group was not included.
In fact, the local athletics community found it hard to believe that with the first four runners averaging 12.18 in the women’s 100m in last month’s National Championships, we still failed to field a relay team for the Iceland GSSE.
Also, despite having four runners averaging 10.89 in the men’s 100m, for the first time in many years we were without a representative in the 100m at the GSSE and without a team in the 4x100m (even if injuries to key runners is acknowledged).
A runner who broke a national record twice this year and came close to the MQS was also left out of the team for Iceland.
While the MOC repeatedly come up with the mantra ‘we are only interested in medals’, the way the 2015 MQSs were set seemed to suggest that they were only interested in winning bronze medals.
In addition, I felt that the decision to limit the size of the team in terms of clear medal-winning chances could have left an adverse effect on the number of medals won.
In my opinion, there are two conditions that can favour the winning of GSSE medals in athletics:
(i) set MQSs that can be reached by athletes in a range of events; and
(ii) field selected athletes in as wide a range of events as possible.
These two strategies paid dividends in the successes of Andorra 2005 and Liechtenstein 2011.
In past GSSE competitions, there have been several occasions when we won unexpected medals and unless the MOC are ready to take more risks by widening and varying the selection process they will limit their chances of winning medals.
I have already urged the MOC to avoid a repeat of the 2015 MQS in future and for this reason I have tasked my Technical Commission to come up with a proposal for the 2017 Games in San Marino.
Furthermore, I have already proposed a wild card system that will allow for fairness and transparency in the way that athletes who do not reach the MQS are accepted.
I feel that in the end we must come up with a system that will provide our athletes with the incentive to train hard and avoid the pitfall of having to make them climb a mountain before the actual Games.
We wish to create a system that will generate success and not stifle talent.
Note: Edwin Attard is president of Athletics Malta.
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