⏱T-minus 67 Days until the Opening Ceremony

"Why are we so convinced that the Olympics are even happening?"

This question appears to be coming from everywhere: skeptical athletes, cynical New York Times columnists, my mom... it's inescapable. So, if these Tokyo Games are only *probably* happening, how might starting a weekly newsletter about the Olympics be a good long-term move? Have I learned nothing from chucking pandemic relief money into Gamestop stock? Apparently not.

But I'm not about to force myself into your inbox every Monday just to peddle blind optimism around the Games happening. I am instead pinging you with content in the name of hope; hope that athletes get the chance to compete in Tokyo, hope that Team Canada sends a full roster, and hope that these editions excite you about the prospect of seeing world class performers show their talents as they emerge from their relative isolation, as we emerge from our own.

This week's newsletter contains a primer on how athletes can qualify for Tokyo (and who has already done so), as well as a podcast conversation with one of Canada's fastest-rising track stars.


The Podcast: Julie-Anne Staehli

I hate quoting myself, but when trying to explain why we could not help but invite Julie-Anne Staehli on The XC podcast for a record third time (making her a platinum-level friend of the show), this tweet says it all.

The 5,000m specialist from Lucknow, Ont., joins us from her temporary Hollywood digs to chat about her transformation from strong varsity runner to Olympic-level athlete.

Listen to the podcast with Julie-Anne here:

On Spotify

On Apple Podcasts

The Long Interval: How to qualify for the Olympics, and who has done it so far?

First thing's first, There are two ways an athlete can be named to Team Canada.

A (the simple way):

By running faster than World Athletics Olympic A standard  

B (the super-complicated way):

By accumulating a large enough number of World Athletics points, which are given based on time and placing at World Athletics events. The number of points a result is worth depends on the significance of the competition where the result was achieved. For example, a 13:15 5k at the 2019 World Championship gets you more points than a 13:15 5k at Mount Sac, which in turn gets you more points than the 13:15 5k you time trialed around your yard with your dad yelling splits.

If an athlete scores enough World Athletics points, they might get to go to the Games despite not having achieved time standard. This is how:

Each Olympic event has a quota (a fixed number of participant spots.) The men's 1,500m's quota, for example, is 45. Each country can send a maximum of 3 athletes per event. If the total number of athletes qualified for the games with time standard is smaller than quota by July 1, 2021, the next highest athletes on the World Athletics rankings will fill remaining available spots, as long as they figure in their national top 3 in the given event.

How do Olympic Trials fit in all this?

Due to the pandemic, Canadian athletes are not required to attend Olympic trials - which happen in Montreal between June 24 and 27 — in order to make the Olympic team. The trials, however, will offer an enticing opportunity for athletes who do choose to go. An athlete who has met above criteria A or B for an event, and who also wins this event at trials, is automatically selected to Team Canada. An automatic selection can come in handy in those events where more than three athletes have Olympic standard (e.g. the women's 5,000m).

So, who has already qualified?

As far as I can tell, the athletes below have achieved time standard. The results listed here are not necessarily personal bests - they are the athlete's best result achieved during the Olympic qualification period, which for most events spans between May 1, 2019, to April 5, 2020, and Dec. 1, 2020, to June 29, 2021.

*Evan Dunfee racewalked his way past me on this one, and tweeted comprehensive spreadsheets earlier this week. I was happy to see that our findings were compatible:

Men's 100m - Standard: 10.05

Andre De Grasse (Scarborough, ON) - Time: 9.90

Aaron Brown (Toronto, ON) - Time: 9.96

Women's 200m - Standard: 22.80

Crystal Emmanuel (Scarborough, ON) - Time: 22.65

Men's 200m - Standard: 20.24

Andre De Grasse (Scarborough, ON) - Time: 19.87

Aaron Brown (Toronto, ON) - Time: 19.95

Women's 400m - Standard : 51.35

Kyra Constantine (Toronto, ON) - Time: 51.22

Women's 800m - Standard: 1:59:50

Melissa Bishop-Nriagu (Windsor, ON) - Time: 1:58.62

Men's 800m - Standard: 1:45.20

Brandon McBride (Windsor, ON) - Time: 1:43.51

Marco Arop (Edmonton, AB) - Time: 1:44:14

Women's 1,500m - Standard: 4:04.20

Gabriela Debues-Stafford (Toronto, ON) - Time: 3:56.12

Men's 1,500m - Standard: 3:35.00

Justyn Knight (Toronto, ON) - Time: 3:33.41

Women's 5,000m - Standard: 15:10.00

Gabriela Debues-Stafford (Toronto, ON) - Time: 14:44.12

Kate Van-Buskirk (Toronto, ON) - Time: 14:59.80

Andrea Seccafien (Guelph, ON) - Time: 14:59.95

Julie-Anne Staehli (Lucknow, ON) - Time: 15:01.85

Natalia Hawthorn (Vancouver, BC) - Time: 15:05.91

Men's 5,000m - Standard: 13:15.00

Moh Ahmed (St. Catharine's, ON) - Time: 12:58.16

Justyn Knight (Toronto, ON) - Time: 13:09.76

Women's 10,000m - Standard: 31:25.00

Andrea Seccafien (Guelph, ON) - Time: 31:13.94

Men's 10,000m - Standard: 27:28.00

Moh Ahmed (St. Catharine's, ON) - Time: 26:59.35

Women's 400mH - Standard: 55.40

Sage Watson (Medicine Hat, AB) - Time: 54.32

Women's 3,000m SC - Standard: 9:30.00

Geneviève Lalonde (Moncton, NB) - Time: 9:29.82

Men's 3,000m SC - Standard: 8:22.00

Matthew Hughes (Toronto, ON) - Time: 8:13.12

Women's Marathon - Standard: 2:29:30

Dayna Pidhoresky (Windsor, ON) - Time: 2:29.03 *National champion, auto-Q

Malindi Elmore (Kelowna, BC) - Time: 2:24:50

Natasha Wodak (Vancouver, BC) - Time: 2:26.19

Rachel Cliff (Vancouver, BC) - Time: 2:26.56

Lyndsay Tessier (Toronto, ON) - Time: 2:30:47 *Top 10 finish at World marathon championship

Men's Marathon - Standard: 2:11:30

Trevor Hofbauer (Calgary, AB) - Time: 2:09.51 *National champion, auto-Q

Ben Preisner (Milton, ON) - Time: 2:10:17

Tristan Woodfine (Cobden, ON) - Time: 2:10:51

Other athletes qualified via World Athletics points who have yet to reach standard

Here is a list of Canadian athletes who have yet to qualify for Tokyo with time standard, but who figure in the top 40 in the World Athletics points rankings, as of the latest weekly ranking of May 11. These rankings can be found here, and are expected to change rapidly from week to week.

*These are brute rankings, and not quota rankings

Lindsey Butterworth - Women' s 800m: 18

Kieran Lumb - Men's 5,000m: 21

John Gay - Men's 3000m SC - 28

Natasha Wodak - Women's 10,000m - 29

Brendon Rodney - Men's 200m - 30

Lucia Stafford - Women's 1,500m - 32

Jessica O'Connell - Women's 5,000m - 36

Two last strides

1. 1,500m and 5,000m - an impossible double

So far, two Canadian athletes, Gabriela Debues-Stafford and Justyn Knight, are eligible to race in both the Olympic 1,500m and 5,000m. A scheduling overlap, however, might force the two middle-distance runners to focus on just one of the two events. The women's 1,500m semi final and 5,000m preliminary round happen on August 2, and the men's 1,500m and 5,000m first round both take place on August 3. This timing is strange and restrictive, given that several athletes around the world specialize in both the 1,500m and the 5,000m.

To be sure, qualifying for too many Olympic events is a good problem to have, and Debues-Stafford and Knight's plight could open doors for other Canadian athletes.  If Debues-Stafford, for example, elects to run the 1,500m over the 5,000m, it could leave an Olympic spot open for one of the four other Canadian women with 5,000m standard.

Alternatively, Debues-Stafford tries the ol' High School Regional Meet Method: race once, chug a full litre of complementary chocolate milk, walk around the track in basketball shorts for 45 minutes, and then get to the next start line.

2. Latest talks about cancelling the games

The New York Times recently published an essay from a political scientist calling to cancel the Tokyo Olympics. Talks of nixing the games had quieted this spring, as the global vaccine rollout continued to make headway. But recent worries about logistical issues around healthcare at the Olympics, as well as Japan's slow vaccination rate and extended state of emergency has 60% of Japanese citizens disapproving of Tokyo hosting the games this summer.

Many who call for their cancellation claim that the Olympics are only being considered because of their moneymaking potential for managers, broadcasters and sponsors (and not even athletes, who profit very little from actually competing at the games.) Still, many athletes and sport enthusiasts argue for the Games, saying that they do help with athlete marketability, and that they can be the pinnacle of sport careers.

For now, the Games are still on, and Japan continues to take measures to make their games safe. Fans will be banned, and participants will be tested twice before leaving for Tokyo and forbidden from using public transport once arrived in the city. Quarantine, however, will not be necessary.

Sneak peek of next week

Dick Pound's remark that Canadian Olympians should get to skip the vaccine line seemed to infuriate the nation... but his comments aged kind of well.

Plus, the Cam Watch. Cameron Levins time trialled a Canadian record in the half-marathon. Yet, he is running out of time to make the Olympic team.

Until next time,

Alex (Twitter / Instagram / Youtube)