24 July 2012

Olympic Wild Card — A Dream Too Far, Too Unrealistic

Some Singapore athletes will be competing in the 2012 Olympics even though they did not meet qualification standards.

Should they go to London at all?

Singapore Athletic Association says (on its website) that it is allowed to nominate one male athlete and one female athlete to the 2012 Olympic Games as none of its athletes met IAAF's qualifying standards.

Using IAAF scoring points to rank its athletes' performance, it recommended Stefan Tseng Ke Chen (1,033 points based on his 15.87 metres in the men's triple jump) and Yeo Foo Ee Gary (1,002 points based on his 10.62 seconds in the men's 100 metres) and Dipna Lim Prasad (1,004 points based on her 14.23 seconds in the women's 100 metres hurdles) and Pereira Valerie Seema (951 points based on her 25.32 seconds in the women's 200 metres).

Acceptance of unqualified entries in the field events is at the discretion of the IAAF technical delegates, based on the technical standard of the athlete, among other criteria.

Mr Yeo and Ms Lim-Prasad were eventually selected.

Yeo Fee Ee Gary. Mr Yeo finished second in the men's 100 metres at the 2011 South-East Asian Games with a time of 10.46 seconds; unfortunately, the wind speed was 2.1 metres/second.  His best time was 10.62 seconds, achieved at the Taiwan Open in May 2012.

The entry standards set by IAAF are 10.18 seconds (A standard) and 10.24 seconds (B standard) for this event at the 2012 Olympics.

The world record is 9.58 seconds, set in 2009.  The best time this year is 9.75 seconds.

IAAF statistics show that 208 athletes have run the 100 metres this year in 10.31 seconds or less (not wind assisted).  [Note: IAAF did not list athletes who clocked more than 10.31 seconds.]

Dipna Lim-Prasad.  Her personal best time for the 100 metres hurdles was 14.23 seconds, achieved at the Taiwan Open in May.  She finished sixth in the finals with 14.41 seconds, far behind the winning time of 13.18 seconds.

Ms Lim-Prasad doesn't expect that she will go below 14 seconds at the 2012 Olympics, because that is her target at next year's South-East Asian Games.  TODAY entitled the interview with her "A Stepping Stone..." (16 Jul 2012), but doesn't one use a stepping stone from a lesser event to a bigger event rather than the other way around?

The entry standards set by IAAF are 12.96 seconds (A standard) and 13.15 seconds (B standard) for this event at the 2012 Olympics.

The world record is 12.21 seconds, set in 1988.  The best time this year was 12.40 seconds.

IAAF statistics show that 188 athletes have run the women's 100 metres this year in 13.30 seconds or less (not wind assisted).  [Note: IAAF did not list athletes who clocked more than 13.30 seconds.]

Singapore Swimming has nominated non-qualifiers Lim Shu En Lynette, Ong Chui Bin Mylene and Quah Zheng Wen.

Lim Shu En Lynette.  Ms Lim will compete in the women's 400 metres and 800 metres freestyle.  Based on times recorded at sanctioned meets in the past 12 months, she is ranked 201 (4:16.62 minutes) and 202 (8:51.90 minutes) by FINA for the two events, respectively.  The qualifying times for the 2012 Olympics are 4:09.35 minutes (A standard) and 8:33.84 minutes, respectively.

Ong Chui Bin, Mylene.  Ms Ong will compete in the women's 100 metres freestyle, for which her personal best time is 55.70 seconds.  Based on times recorded at sanctioned meets in the past 12 months, she is ranked 129 by FINA.  The qualifying time at the 2012 Olympics is 54.57 seconds.

Quah Zheng Wen.  Mr Quah will compete in the men's 200 metres backstroke and 400 metres IM. Based on times recorded at sanctioned meets in the past 12 months, he is ranked 108 (2:01.18 minutes) and 88 (4:21.70 minutes) by FINA for the two events, respectively.  The qualifying times for the 2012 Olympics are 1:58.48 minutes and 4:16.46 minutes, respectively.

All three swimmers meet FINA/Olympic selection times (one entry per country, by invitation only), however.

Helena Wong Kar Mun will be competing in women's weightlifting 53 kg class.  She lifted 146 kg at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, finishing eighth (the winning lift was 182 kg).  Ms Wong lifted 153 kg, her personal best, at the 2011 South-East Asian Games, finishing sixth (the winning lift was 205 kg).  This placed her at 77 ranking by IWF last year.  Ms Wong appears not to have participated at any IWF events this year e.g., Asian Championships or Commonwealth Championships, and therefore has no current IWF ranking.

The world record is 230 kg.  48 women in the world have lifted 155 kg or more in competitions this year, with 11 of them lifting at least 200 kg.

Athletes qualify for the weightlifting events at the 2012 Olympics through their performance at the 2010 and 2011 World Weightlifting Championships and 2012 continental qualification events.

18 women will be competing in the 2012 Olympics weightlifting 53 kg class.  Ms Wong is ranked 17th with 153 kg.  The 16th ranked competitor lifted 184 kg — 31 kg more than Ms Wong!  Perhaps that is why other national weightlifting organisations and their Olympic councils were more realistic and declined to accept the unused quota, unlike Singapore.

Wong Zi Liang Derek.  Mr Wong is currently ranked 60th by Badminton World Federation, his lowest ranking since May 2011.

Some results of Mr Wong's matches in the singles event:
— Lost in the quarter-finals of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
— Lost in the semi-finals of the 2011 South-East Asian Games.
— Lost in the first round of the Li Ning Singapore Open 2012.
— Lost in the second round of the Badminton Asia Championship 2012 (first round walkover).
— Lost in the qualification round of the Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships 2012.

In the sprint events, athletes earn quota places for their respective national Olympic councils, not their individual places.  The national Olympic council selects the athletes to fill its quota places.

Lee Wei Ling Geraldine.  In the 2011 Asian Canoeing Championships, which served as a qualifying event, Ms Lee finished fifth in the women's K1 200 metres sprint in 45.29 seconds (the winning time was 41.06 seconds) and fourth in the women's K1 500 metres sprint in 1:59.46 minutes (the winning time was 1:53:06 minutes).

The winning times at the 2011 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championship were 39.998 seconds in the women's K1 200 metres and 1:47.066 minutes in the K1 500 metres.

Ms Lee herself acknowledges it will be tough to even make it past the heats.  Her coach hopes that she will be able to beat at least one competitor in her events (Lee's Out to Prove a Point TODAY 18 Jul 2012).

These athletes are fine athletes, probably among the best, if not the best, in Singapore.  But most of them are not world class, or even continental class, at least not yet.

Qualifying standards are set for the Olympics to separate the elite athletes from the others.  The Olympics are meant for the world class athletes; the others should not be there.

If an athlete does not meet the qualifying standard, he or she should not compete at the Olympics (or, for that matter, the Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games).

Unqualified athletes should not be considered for nomination for the Olympics unless they fall just fractionally short of the qualifying standards, but not otherwise.

The Olympics are not about an athlete's quest to better his or her personal best.  They are not about the opportunity to experience competing against the world's best.  They are not about rewarding an athlete for the effort he or she has put in.  They are not about grooming an athlete for the future because nothing is gained by being shown — not that he or she is not aware of it — that there is a huge chasm in standard between him or her and the world class athletes.

The Olympics are not for the national sports associations to demonstrate that they have not failed, in that they have an athlete or two from their sport competing at the Olympics.

There is no room for sentiment, generosity or charity.

It's painful to watch anyone being totally outclassed by his or her competitors e.g., being eliminated in the heats or (in certain field events and weightlifting) before the majority have even begun their attempts.  It serves no purpose for the non-elite to participate.

It's also a waste of taxpayers' precious money.


1. The world ranking of athletes, where available, necessarily includes some athletes who will not be competing at the 2012 Olympics because of various reasons e.g., too many of them may be nationals from the same country and there are better qualified athletes to fill the country quota.  Although their absence may improve the chances of the unqualified athletes, the ranking nevertheless shows how the unqualified athletes compare with the others in their event.

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