Siding with Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer said the stance of organizers in not altering the Olympic schedule in her favor is extremely disappointing, particularly since it was done in the past for other athletes. Miller-Uibo was hoping to attempt double gold in the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m) at next year’s Olympics. However, with those two events being so close together, it would make the attempt difficult to accomplish.
Archer agreed that the whole situation looks bad, questioning the spirit of fair play and universality of athletics. He asked succinctly, what makes Miller-Uibo so different from other athletes who would have been granted the same opportunity in the past?
The BAAA is one of the 200-plus member federations of World Athletics, which released a statement citing that it would be difficult to alter the schedule any further given the complexity of other events – particularly the introduction of the mixed 4×400 meters (m) relay into the Olympic schedule.
Miller-Uibo is the world leader in this Olympic cycle for the women’s 200m, and is or has been the world leader in the women’s 400m in four of the past five years. She is the Olympic Champion in the 400m, but said she will forego that event and run just the 200m at the next Olympics if the schedule is not changed in her favor to do both events.
“Athletics is all about putting the best product on the market in competition and it is my view that Shaunae Miller-Uibo is one of the most dynamic athletes in the women’s 200 and 400m today, and her double attempt would be one of the best stories of the games,” said Archer. “Since 2014, Shaunae has shown her dominance in both events. We figured that moving into the 2020 Olympics, she had a tremendous opportunity to contest both ends and to be successful in both. We felt this would have made her the third woman in history to double in both the 200 and 400 meters and we were certainly looking forward to that. That would have been a wonderful opportunity for her – to become a part of the annals of history. I’m sure it was difficult for World Athletics and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to make that change given the introduction of the mixed relay and recovery time, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. We will continue to appeal on Shaunae’s behalf.”
American Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Marie-José Pérec, of France, are the only two women in history to accomplish the 200-400m double at the Olympics, with Brisco-Hooks striking double gold in 1984 in Los Angeles, California, and the latter securing both gold medals in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. Both Olympics were held in the United States. American Michael Johnson accomplished the feat for men, in Atlanta in 1996.
The 2020 Olympics has been pushed back to July 23 to August 8, 2021, still in Tokyo, Japan, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. A revised schedule is yet to be released, but the initial schedule had the first round of the women’s 400m and the final of the women’s 200m on the same day, making it difficult for Miller-Uibo to contest both events.
“We have allowed the Bahamas Olympic Committee to take the lead in this venture, but we will continue to agitate for a change in the schedule because we believe that Shaunae Miller-Uibo has the best opportunity to double and be successful in both events. It’s unfortunate that the request was denied, but we will continue to fight on Shaunae’s behalf,” said Archer.
World Athletics has stated that it’s decision is final, although a revised schedule is yet to be released.
Archer said they were the first to appeal to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), now World Athletics, on Miller-Uibo’s behalf. MIller-Uibo and her team also wrote to World Athletics requesting a schedule change, and apparently, the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) did so as well. All were rejected.
As it is set up right now, the women’s 200 and 400m events cross in the middle of the track segment of the games, with the 400m first round taking place in the morning session and the 200m final in the evening – about 12 hours apart. World Athletics has stated that, that would be the best-case scenario given the nature of other events.
Miller-Uibo said that more would have to be done to accommodate a 200-400 double at the Olympics. The Olympic schedule has been altered in the past to accommodate a 200m-400m double attempt, specifically for Americans Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix.
World Athletics stated the current timetable does allow the possibility to compete in both the 200m and 400m, although acknowledging that it requires racing twice in the same day on one occasion. In actuality, it would require racing twice on back-to-back days – running two rounds of the 200m on the same day, then coming back the following day and running the first round of the 400m, as well as the final of the 200m. Additionally, the 400m semifinals is the day after the 400m heats, meaning Miller-Uibo would actually have to run five races in three days if she is to go after the double. She would then finally get a day’s rest before the 400m final is held.
With her national record-setting run of 21.74 seconds in Zürich, Switzerland, a year ago, Miller-Uibo is the world leader in this Olympic period in that event. Her area record of 48.37 seconds in the women’s 400m is second only to Salwa Eid Naser’s run of 48.14 seconds last year – the third-fastest time in history.
Miller-Uibo said a final decision is yet to be made, but as it stands now, she will likely run just the 200m in Tokyo and not defend her Olympic 400m title.