It was at the Racers Grand Prix, after winning the men’s 200m that Akeem Bloomfield told reporters he would not compete in the 400m at Jamaica’s National Senior Championships, which was coming up two weeks later.
When I am reporting for the IAAF, I tend to ask peculiar questions where the athletes can express themselves. On this occasion, I asked Bloomfield about his decision to step down in distance. He was forthright with his reasons, at the time, which he told me off the air. I understood and kept it to myself. As a journalist, I try to earn respect and trust of any athlete that I encounter.
Bloomfield, the 17th fastest 400m runner of all-time, would fail in his bid to make the top three in the men’s 200m at the Jamaica National Senior Championships. Many persons felt he had made the wrong choice. However, a keen observer would have noticed that he did not compete in a 400m up to that point of the season. I was thankful he came through the trials injury-free.
The Doha World Championships scheduled for the latter part of September through the first week in October is a few weeks away. Bloomfield is much stronger and in far better shape than he was in June. The 21-year-old is unbeaten so far over the 400m with a season’s best of 44.40 seconds making him the 7th fastest man this season. This is good news for Jamaica. On the other hand, maybe it is not.
While Jamaicans would love to see Bloomfield compete in the 400m in Doha, it is up to the national federation to make that decision. The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) is usually rigid in its decision-making, but, to be fair, they have also shown at times that they can be flexible.
Looking at the federation’s selection policy, it will take some lengthy meetings and strong cases put forward by both local and international experts for Bloomfield to gain automatic selection to compete in the individual 400m event in Doha provided he does not win the Diamond League trophy in Brussels on 6 September.
Here is the JAAA selection policy below. Please pay close attention to section 3 (a).
1. Athletes must compete in the National Championships unless an exemption has been granted by the JAAA.
2. Athletes placing in the first four positions in the 100M & 400M will be named to the relay pool. The remaining members of the relay pool will be selected by the JAAA Selection Committee. As mandated by the IAAF, athletes who are selected to run individual 100M/400M are automatic members of the relay pool. It is a condition for selection that the athletes selected for the relay pool must be available when required for relay practice. Athletes who fail to make themselves available may not be allowed to participate in the competition.
3. (a) Subject to the proviso below, athletes placing in the 1st’ to 3rd positions in all events will be selected if they have attained the qualifying standard for the event PROVIDED, HOWEVER, that in any event where any athlete has been granted an exemption from competing in that event at the National Championships under criteria (7) below the athlete so exempted may be considered for selection as an entrant for the event in the competition.
(b) Where an athlete has been granted an exemption and the Selection Committee has determined that such an athlete should be selected among the entrants for the event that athlete shall be selected above the athlete placing third at the National Championships or in place of an athlete finishing in either of the first two places of the event where that athlete has been determined by a medical panel appointed by the JAAA to be ill or injured and not being in a satisfactory physical condition to warrant being entered to compete.
4. Final selection will be made using the allowed final entry date governing the particular competition.
5. All athletes must maintain and prove their competitive fitness up to the time of the final entry date for the competition.
6. Injured athletes must be examined by the JAAA local medical team in order to be declared unfit not to compete in the Championships. After examination, the medical team will recommend how soon the athlete will be capable of returning to competition.
7. Athletes who are ranked/listed in the top three in the world for their event who are ill or injured at the time of the National Championships and are granted an exemption from competing at the Championships may still be considered for selection provided that they are able to prove their world ranking form prior to the final submission of the entries for the competition.
Only three of the finalists in the men’s 400m final at the Jamaica National Senior Championships had attained the World Championships standard of 45.30 seconds. Demish Gaye won the event while Rusheen McDonald crossed the line fourth and Sean Bailey did not finish.
Once again, the ball is in the JAAA’s court on a matter that is generating national interest. So for the second time, in the same calendar year, the federation is shackled by its own selection policy guidelines. If the Jamaican contingent to the World Championships is released before the midnight deadline on 6 September, I expect to see Bloomfield selected only for 4x400m relay duties unless there is another bending of the rules.
On the other hand, Bloomfield could receive a wildcard entry for the individual 400m in Doha; all he has to do is beat at least five Americans including two fiercely competitive former college rivals in Michael Norman and Fred Kerley in the Brussels final. What a cracking race that will be!
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Noel Francis) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Trackalerts.com
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