The men’s hammer competition at last week’s IAAF Hammer Challenge meet in Ostrava assembled the best field of the year so far and included the Olympic gold medalist, the Olympic silver medalist and eight of the top eleven throwers in the world so far this season. Yet despite the big names, only two throwers eclipsed the IAAF “A” qualifying standard for this summer’s World Championships. And only five even surpassed the “B” standard, the minimum standard for entry to the World Championships. It is not that the results were bad; quite to the contrary the results were quite strong and for just the second time this year two throwers broke 80 meters in the same meet, something that didn’t even happen at last year’s Olympics and only happened three times during the entire 2012 season. The culprit wasn’t the performances, it was the exorbitantly high new IAAF Qualifying standards.
The qualifying standards in nearly every field event were raised after the London Olympics, but no event was hit harder than the men’s hammer throw. The new A qualifying standard is 79.00 meters. The B standard is now 76.00 meters. To put that in perspective 74.69 meters was good enough to qualify for the finals in London and 78.71 meters earned a medal. Yes you read that correct: the A standard is higher than what was required for a medal at the Olympic Games. As a result of these high standards, it is not surprising that only five men have met the A standard this year, by far the lowest number amongst all track and field events. Even the B standard is much higher than the mark required to make the finals at the majority of major championships over the past 25 years, as shown in the graph to the right and discussed in a previous analysis. At the end of this post I have also compiled an analysis which shows how many individuals have met the A standard in each event and how high the A standard would need to be if just the top five athletes in each event had reached it.
The decision to raise the standards is having the odd effect of lowering the standard of competition in the hammer throw. It is doing this in two major ways: (1) by keeping potential medalists and finalists out of the World Championships; and (2) by inadvertently limiting the funding and sponsorship opportunities available to top throwers in every country.