Some confusion regarding the selection of athletes for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games seems to have been caused by IOC/BOA reports that ‘qualified’ athletes will not have to re-qualify.
That is correct, but unlike athletics where athletes have to reach certain time/distance criteria to qualify for the Games, the sailing competitors follow a different system.
Firstly, due to the very restricted number of entries permitted in the ten sailing events, each country must first qualify to compete in each of the ten events. This is achieved by competing in dedicated qualification events set by World Sailing, the governing body.
Britain achieved qualification for all ten events in the first opportunity, back in August 2018, and those qualification places will stand.
But it does not matter which British sailor(s) achieved the qualification rank, by finishing in the top 10 of that event, they have not achieved personal qualification, they have only qualified the country for that event.
With that important qualification hurdle out of the way, it is then for the country, in this case Team GB, to select (under guidance from the RYA Olympic Steering Group) the individual sailors(s) who will form the Team GB sailing squad at the Games.
This the RYA OSG did by setting a number of events that the RYA Sailing Team members needed to compete in to achieve selection/recommendation. These ‘selection’ events and selection criteria were not made public.
The full 15 sailors were ‘selected’ by Team GB – with the first named on 1 Oct 2019 and the last on 29 February 2020 – with six months to the first day of Tokyo 2020.
But, then along came coronavirus COVID-19 in late March and we had the unique situation of the 2020 Games opening date being moved 12 months to 23 July 2021.
When the question of qualification was raised, Olympic performance manager Mark Robinson commented:
“Our biggest problem is going to be the fact there won’t be any more competitions until at least September for us to select from . . . It’s all to do with how teams and individuals suit certain boats and without any future events, it’s hard to make a fair judgement.”
Strange comment as those same teams and individuals have been members of the RYA squad for four years or more!
It’s true there are unlikely to be any international events until later in 2020, but we are really looking at how the already selected Team GB members perform in those events and the early 2021 season events in Europe in these unusual times.
In addition World Sailing and JSAF are now in discussions, looking at possibilities for future Olympic class sailing events to be held out of Enoshima Yacht Harbour ahead of the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
National Authorities do not have to confirm their Olympic team selections until early July 2021.
And although the RYA OCG has a history of sticking with their early selections no matter what, this is a unique situation and they really need to declare a sensible, open confirmation policy now, before they find themselves in another behind-closed-doors situation.
The selected sailors must continue to compete at the highest level over the extended run-up to the Games. If their performance level is seen to have fallen compared with team-mates, then the RYA OCG has to make new recommendations to Team GB.
That does not seem to me to be a very difficult process, it is what they signed up for.
The RYA receives £25m+ each Olympiad from UK Sport to support and fund our Olympic sailors to maximise their chance of medal success.
Sailing does not have the luxury of multiple entries . . . it’s a one-shot entry and should be the best at that time . . . the 23 July 2021.