On Monday, the World Athletics Council announced changes to qualifying criteria for middle-distance events at major championships, starting at this year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August and carrying into the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. There will no longer be fastest-qualifier spots in the heats of the 1,500m, 3,000m steeplechase and 5,000m events. Qualification for the next round will be by place only (ie, big Q’s only).
World Athletics believes this will bring fairness, after widespread complaints by athletes claiming that runners in the later heats have an unfair advantage, because they know what times they must run to qualify for the next round; this also leads to less competitive races, as a result.
“There has been widespread feedback on the significant disadvantage to athletes in the first heat or semi-final and advantage to athletes in subsequent heats or semi-finals, when receiving qualification based on time due to knowing what is required to qualify,” World Athletics said in a press release regarding the changes.
In the new system, each heat of the men’s 1,500m will allocate six qualifying spots to the next round, while the 3,000m steeplechase heats will hold five spots and the 5,000m heats eight spots. There will still be fastest-time qualifiers in sprint events (100m-400m) and the 800m.
The 2024 Paris Olympics will also introduce a repechage round between the first round and semifinals for events from the 200m to the 1,500m. Athletes who don’t automatically qualify from the first round of heats will have another opportunity in a repechage heat to secure a spot in the semifinals, rather than face elimination. (The 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest will not include the repechage.)