Who’s Going to Rio?

Review of the week: 19 – 26 October 2015

Markus Rehm in the air. (3562624300)

IPC World Athletics Championships

The world’s fastest disabled athletes both made an early appearance. Visually impaired sprinters Jason Smyth of Ireland and Omara Durand of Cuba confirmed their status, in the 100m for Smyth and the 200 and 400m for Durand, who is likely to add a third gold.

But the stratospheric performer of the opening few days was Markus Rehm of Germany (above), who launched himself to 8.40m in the long jump, a distance which would have won gold at the London 2012 Olympics, and silver at the recent World Championships.

This begs two questions. Should Rehm compete at the Olympics, where a medal would be a real possibility? And does he have an advantage that would make it unfair to do so?

Does Rehm have an argument?

The IAAF would prefer that he did not take part. It allowed Oscar Pistorius to compete but only after it lost a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His German federation feels the same way and has so far refused to select Rehm for international competition.

The IAAF has also changed the rules so that an athlete has to prove that his prosthesis gives him no advantage. The absence of any clear research now benefits the IAAF and makes it unlikely that there will be a repeat of the Pistorius verdict. In any event, Rehm says that he has no appetite for court. He will be in Rio but for the Paralympics alone.

I doubt that there is any great injustice here, because my hunch is that Rehm does get an edge by jumping from his blade. But the attitude of the IAAF troubles me. If I was in its shoes, and trying to produce fair rules, I would not be satisfied with relying on a hunch.

Glasgow 2014 - Hockey (16) Fergus Kavanagh

Oceania Cup Hockey

It is easy to get lost in the qualification rules for Olympic hockey. Both Australian teams qualified months ago so winning the Oceania Cup might seem not to make a  difference.

But the result opens up new qualification places and sends Japan’s women and Ireland’s men to Rio, without playing again. For Ireland, it will be the first appearance since 1908.

The final spot will be filled after the African Championships this week, at least in theory. But South Africa has indicated that it will not send any teams to Rio, even if it does win.

If South Africa withdraws, New Zealand’s men and Spain’s women will benefit. But the South African players might lack motivation, giving an opportunity to the likes of Egypt.

Rugby Union and Windsurfing

Australia and New Zealand will meet again next week, in the final of the Rugby World Cup, having both negotiated their semi-finals. Meanwhile, in Oman, the Windsurfing World Championships were won by Pierre Le Coq of France and Peina Chen of China.

World Artistic Gymnastics Championships

If hockey qualification is like a maze, gymnastics qualification resembles the Labyrinth of Ancient Crete, and Olympic pommel horse champion, Krisztian Berki, seems to have been gored by the Minotaur. His Hungarian team failed to qualify and he lost his chance of the medal needed to secure an individual place. 2020 will see an overdue rule change.

Like Rehm and South Africa’s hockey players, Berki has done all that he can. But so much of their fate depends, not on their own hard work, but on the whims of sporting officials.

Next week: The conclusion of IPC athletics, world gymnastics and the Rugby World Cup

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