UK Athletics are accused of going ‘SOFT’ after dropping entry standards for Olympic events


UK Athletics accused of damaging Team GB’s medal chances at Tokyo Olympics after easing entry standards for most events at Games trials, with critics worried about the ‘soft’ decision

  • UK athletics have been accused of compromising Britain’s prospects in Tokyo
  • Entry standards for this summer’s Olympic trials were eased in most disciplines
  • Changes were made due to little training and competitions during the pandemic
  • Jessica Ennis-Hill’s former coach said the entry requirements are now ‘too soft’











UK Athletics have been accused of compromising Britain’s prospects in Tokyo after entry standards for this summer’s Olympic trials were eased.

It has been noted and criticised by multiple leading coaches that the barriers for entry into the British Championships in June are less than they were last year in all bar five of 36 disciplines.

While that has been put down to the need for a smaller championships in 2020 because of the pandemic — with the current timings in line with those of 2019 — the governing body has been told the entry standards are too ‘soft’. 

They have also been queried for reacting insufficiently to improvements in shoe technology in the middle distances. 

Toni Minichiello (left), former coach to Jessica Ennis-Hill (right), said UK athletics’ new entry requirement for the Tokyo trials are ‘too soft’ and that it’s ‘too important to get wrong’

Toni Minichiello, the former coach to Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill, told Sportsmail: ‘The entry standards in some events are too soft. 

‘An Olympic selection meeting serves as an opportunity to gain qualifying performances, and to replicate the multiple rounds of an Olympic Games, but to achieve that it needs to have higher quality rounds.

‘It’s just too important to get wrong. Joanna Coates (the UKA CEO) has spoken about putting athletes first and I don’t believe this does because there will be too many slow heats.

UK Athletics' governing body, headed by CEO Joanna Coates (pic), has been accused of damaging Britain’s prospects in Tokyo after making changes to the entry standards for trials

UK Athletics’ governing body, headed by CEO Joanna Coates (pic), has been accused of damaging Britain’s prospects in Tokyo after making changes to the entry standards for trials

UK Athletics has been told the entry standards are too ‘soft’ (pictured, 400m hurdles runner Eilidh Doyle of Great Britain, left)

UK Athletics has been told the entry standards are too ‘soft’ (pictured, 400m hurdles runner Eilidh Doyle of Great Britain, left) 

‘It is an Olympic trial, so it should never be treated as a mass-participation event.’

Citing the 1500m entry standards, which are more than three seconds slower for men and women than they were in 2020, former European champion Matthew Yates, who coaches leading Brits Dan Rowden and Jamie Webb, said: ‘I would like to know, given the impact of the new spike technology, how UKA will deal with the qualified numbers and the huge number of heats.

‘We are in an age where a 1500m athlete with 3min 50sec personal best can now potentially run 3:45 in the new tech spikes. Based on the 2019 UK 1500m rankings (the last year of uninterrupted competition) that means up to 115 athletes could qualify.

It is just 86 days until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games is due to take place in Tokyo

It is just 86 days until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games is due to take place in Tokyo 

‘In the men’s 100m the entry standard has come down from 10.44sec to 10.70sec. Based on the 2019 rankings, 100 men would qualify for the 10.70 entry time and that’s 12 heats. ’

A UKA spokesperson said: ‘The qualifying standards for the 2021 Championships are comparable to the standards used in 2019 with the majority of marks remaining the same and a third increasing in difficulty.

‘The standards utilised for 2020 were tighter as a result of the varying challenges of planning the event during the first Covid lockdown and the requirement to reduce the numbers of athletes.’

Olympic medal winners will have to wear masks when they receive their gongs on the podium under new rules for Tokyo 2020 published on Wednesday.