(16-Jun) -- For the first time since World Athletics was founded in 1912 as the International Amateur Athletics Federation, six of the world's top athletics nations --France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and the United States-- have all agreed to hold their national indoor championships on the same weekend in 2021, February 20 and 21. In an effort spearheaded by the World Athletics' Global Calendar Unit, the designation of this "protected weekend" will allow agents, athletes, coaches, event organizers, fans, journalists, and other stakeholders to plan their seasons with more certainty. Perhaps most importantly, athletes won't have to worry about missing invitational meetings --which are often important sources of income-- because of conflicts with national championships.
PHOTO: World 800m champion Donavan Brazier wins the 600m at the 2019 Toyota USATF Indoor Championships in Staten Island, N.Y. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Moreover, World Athletics --the global governing body for track and field and road running-- hopes that more nations will come on board for National Indoor Championships Weekend next year.
"World Athletics strongly encourages Member Federations, where possible and as applicable, to stage their 2021 National Indoor Championships on this weekend as no World Indoor Tour or Area Permitted events will take place, helping to ensure the availability of all the top athletes for the Championships," wrote World Athletics CEO John Ridgeon in a letter to member federations today.
The global indoor season is very short and very crowded, from early January to mid-March. Conflicts between meetings have been an enduring problem. Athletes are sometimes forced to decide between competing in their national championships or accepting a lucrative appearance fees and the opportunity for prize money at invitational meetings which are held on the same dates in other countries.
For instance, in 2020 the Toyota USATF Indoor Championships were held in Albuquerque, N.M., on February 14 and 15, but the prestigious Müller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow (part of the World Athletics Indoor Tour) was held the same weekend. Several top USA athletes --like sprinters Ronnie Baker and Mike Rodgers, pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, and hurdler Nia Ali-- chose to compete in Glasgow. For Kendricks, the Glasgow meet was part of a nine-meet European trip which began for him on January 29 in Cottbus, Germany, and ended on February 28 in Ulsteinvik, Norway. Flying all the way back to Albuquerque would not have made any sense.
Conflicts will persist, however, between National Indoor Championships Weekend and the plethora of USA collegiate indoor meetings which are also popular with pro athletes who are seeking to achieve top marks, especially middle and long distance runners who crave the fast indoor tracks at Boston University and the University of Washington.
For example, in 2019 Nike Bowerman Track Club athletes Marielle Hall, Karissa Schweizer, Courtney Frerichs and and Vanessa Fraser all chose to run at the Boston University Last Chance Meet the same weekend as the Toyota USATF Indoor Championships. Although that collegiate meeting doesn't compensate pro athletes, the athletes sought to lock-in their World Athletics Championships qualifying marks for 5000m, taking advantage of Boston University's fast, 200-meter track. All of them made the standard of 15:22.00.
Pierce O'Callaghan, who heads up the Global Calendar Unit under Director of Competition and Events Jakob Larsen, pointed out that for USA athletes the 2021 indoor schedule should be favorable, especially since the World Athletics Indoor Championships will take place next March in Nanjing, China, delayed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It opens up the other weekends for World Indoor Tour meets," O'Callaghan observed in an e-mail to Race Results Weekly. "In fact, it leaves three weekends in a row in the U.S. --Boston, New York and Nationals-- on successive weekends to build the storyline ahead of World Indoors."