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Opinion

Is Australia’s Olympic athletics team fair in terms of gender selection?

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images for IAAF)
Roar Guru
7th July, 2021
8
1436 Reads

With female athletes making up a record 53.5 per cent (254 of 472) of the Australian Olympic team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, I was interested to see how fair the selection criteria was for Australia’s athletics squad given that the 63-strong athletics team also comprises 35 women and 28 men.

While World Athletics has introduced a new world ranking system for qualification to the Tokyo, with rankings based on the average of the best five results for the athlete over the qualifying period – roughly from early 2019 to 29 June 2021 – I assess selection fairness by comparing the qualifying times for men and women against the best world performers of previous years.

The following table, which focuses on the individual track and field events, compares the qualifying standard times set for both sexes against the tenth and 25th best world performances from the proceeding three-year period from 2016 to 2018.

A percentage above 100 per cent means that the qualifying performance is outside the tenth and 25th ranking, while a percentage below 100 per cent means that the qualifying standard is better.

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The table excludes the marathon (six competitors) and walking events (seven competitors) and the four additional female athletes selected for Australia’s only relay team (4x400m),

Qualifying standard QS as percentage of tenth world best QS as percentage of 25th world best
100m
Rohan Browning 10.05 sec 9.90, 101.5 9.94, 101.6
Hana Basic 11.15 10.85, 102.7 10.98, 101.5
200m
No male qualifier 20.24 19.81, 102.2 19.97, 101.3
Riley Day 22.80 22.08, 103.2 22.42, 101.7
400m
Steven Solomon, Alex Beck 44.90 44.02, 102 44.55, 100.8
Bendere Oboya 51.35 49.90, 102.9 50.43, 101.8
800m
Peter Bol, Charlie Hunter, Jeffrey Riseley 1:45.20 1:43.25, 101.9 1:44.42, 100.7
Catriona Bisset and Morgan Mitchell 1:59.5 1:57.38, 101.8 1:58.43, 100.9
1500m
Jye Edwards, Stewart McSweyn, Ollie Hoare 3:35.0 3:31.62, 101.6 3:33.05, 100.9
Linden Hall, Jessica Hull, Georgia Griffith 4:04.2 3:58.88, 102.2 4:01.78, 101
5000m
Patrick Tiernan, Dave McNeill, Morgan McDonald 13:13.50 12:59.83, 101.7 13:04.82, 101
Izzi Batt-Doyle, Rose Davies, Jenny Blundell 15:10.0 14:29.50, 104.6 14:43.42, 103
10000m
Patrick Tiernan 27:28.0 26:57.88, 102.5 27:14.43, 100.8
No female qualifier 31:25.0 30:37.38, 102.6 31:15.38, 100.5
110m hurdles
Nick Hough 13.32 13.11, 101.6 13.25, 100.5
Liz Clay 12.84 12.52, 102.5 12.69, 101.2
400m hurdles
No male qualifier 48.90 48.07, 101.7 48.49, 100.8
Sarah Carli 55.40 53.92, 102.7 54.94, 100.8
3000m steeple
Ed Trippas, Ben Buckingham 8:22.0 8:08.37, 102.8 8:14.62, 101.5
Genevieve Gregson, Amy Cashin, Georgia Winkcup 9:30.0 9:08.23, 104 9:20.07, 101.8
Long jump
Henry Frayne 8.22 metres 8.42, 102.4 8.28, 100.7
Brooke Stratton 6.82 6.93, 101.6 6.81, 99.8
Triple jump
No male qualifier 17.14 17.37, 101.3 17.16, 100.1
No female qualifier 14.32 14.65, 102.3 14.33, 100.1
High jump
Brandon Starc 2.33 2.35, 100.8 2.31, 99.1
Nicola McDermott and Eleanor Patterson 1.96 1.98, 101 1.95, 99.5
Pole vault
Kurtis Marschall 5.80 5.85, 100.8 5.75, 99.1
Nina Kennedy and Elizaveta Parnova 4.70 4.81, 102.3 4.67, 99.4
Shot put
No male qualifier 21.10 21.76, 103.1 21.11, 100
No female qualifier 18.50 19.38, 104.7 18.78, 101.5
Discus
Matty Denny 66 68.03, 103 66.03, 100
Dani Stevens 63.50 65.59, 103.3 61.89, 97.5
Hammer
No male qualifier 77.50 78.59, 101.4 77.40, 99.9
No female qualifier 72.50 75.29, 103.8 72.41, 99.9
Javelin
No male qualifier 85 88.27, 103.8 85.11, 100.1
Kelsey Barber, K.Mitchell, Mackenzie Little 64 67.11, 104.8 63.65, 99.4
Decathlon
Ash Moloney and Cedric Dubler 8350 8521, 102 8281, 99.2
Heptathlon
No qualifier 6420 6580, 102.5 6337, 98.7

If we compare qualification standards against the 25th best world performance from 2016 to 2018, there is little difference between the men and women in 16 of the 19 individual events, with less than one per cent separating them. In 12 of the events there was only a maximum 0.5 per cent difference.

Six of the 19 events had a tougher standard for the women and nine had a slightly tougher standard for men.

The 5000m is the only event where there appears to be a significant difference that favours the females, yet that event did not prevent the maximum three qualifiers for both genders.

The same is true when comparing qualification standards against the tenth-ranked global athlete from 2016 to 2018, although the difference between the genders is slightly above one per cent in more events.

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While not all selected Australians met the qualifying standard listed in the table since 2019 – five males and eight females – most of Australia’s selected athletes did indeed qualify or were very close to the listed qualifying standard.

The overall tough criteria also mean that Australia has no male competitor in six of the individual events, while there are no females in five events.

In accordance with the information presented in the above table, Australia’s track and field team is indeed selected on a fair basis.

While this article cannot speak for the other Olympic sports, it does show that the criteria for selecting men and women for Australia’s athletics team are quite fair, with similar qualifying standards for both men and women.

It simply does not matter if any Australian team has a higher proportion of females if they are the ones that most often meet the qualifying standard.

After all, there is nothing like a bit of competition.

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