Kenyan athletes will have to work extra hard to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following the adoption of stiffer qualifying standards by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).
The move comes as the IAAF, together with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), seek to limit the number of athletes qualifying for the games.
Kenya's sprinting coach Geoffrey Kimani, speaking in Nairobi on Monday, said it will be harder for the athletes across the board to seal their tickets to Tokyo Games.
"The new qualifying standards for Tokyo 2020 will make it harder and harder for some countries especially in the field and sprints competition. I believe it's time to dig deeper," he warned on Monday.
Though IAAF has extended the period athletes can clinch their qualification time, Kimani believes it does not reduce the workload and many countries struggling to make a mark in the spot will hardly get direct tickets.
"The IAAF Council has decided to introduce a dual qualification system, combining both the entry standards and the new world ranking system, to determine which athletes are eligible for Olympic selection in 2020. They can gain entry by achieving the entry standard within the respective qualification period or qualify by virtue of their global ranking in the selected event at the end of the respective qualification period," said Sebastian Coe, the IAAF President.
Though athletes can still qualify by hitting an entry standard, those standards are much stiffer across the board as compared to 2016 Rio Games. "Olympic standards are out and I see no fairness here to upcoming athletes," said Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo.
"This is another example of how track and field is killing itself with no mercy. If this standard was in effect at the Rio 2016 games, I would not be an Olympic silver medalist or an Olympian. This struggle is real," said Chelimo.
In the men's distance events, for example, the times dropped from 3:36.20 to 3:35.00 in the 1500, from 8:30:00 to 8:22.00 in the steeplechase, from 13:25.00 to 13:13.50 in the 5000, from 28:00.00 to 27:28.00 in the 10,000 and from 2:19:00 to 2:11:30 for marathon.
For the women, the 1500 standard has gone from 4:07.00 to 4:04.20, the steeplechase standard has gone from 9:45.00 to 9:30.00, the 5000 standard has gone from 15:24.00 to 15:10.00, the 10,000 standard has gone from 32:15 to 31:25 and the marathon standard has gone from 2:45:00 to 2:29:30.
Athletes will have more opportunities to achieve the Olympic entry standards under the new system, which extends the qualification window by two months for most events. This will start on May (instead of July), to include more international competitions such as the IAAF Diamond League, and end on 29 June 2020.