Local athletes will still get a chance to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan despite the decision by the National Association of Athletics Administration of T&T (NAAATT) to not host the National Senior Championships due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Instead, athletes who still have a chance to book a spot at the Games, will compete at the NAAATT's Olympic trials over two weekends according to acting president of the association, George Comissiong.
"NAAAs will not be having any championships this year, however, we have received permission from the Minister of Health to host two Olympic trials on June 20 and 27, respectively. These are invitational meets where we shall be inviting athletes who may still have a chance of making a qualifying standards for the Olympics."
The two-day trials will be organised by the NAAATT events committee, which Comissiong advised is the group charged with responsibility of all meets and that they are doing everything to ensure that all are in place for both events.
Earlier this year, Comissiong and his team hosted about six meets. The first two of which were actually called 'test' events and were designed to test their preparedness to host events while ensuring adherence to the COVID-19 protocols.
"For the upcoming trials, we plan to be even more rigid in ensuring compliance. We have developed an operations manual to guide the conduct of the meets. Given the continuing border closure, we do not expect participation by any of our foreign-based athletes.
"A decision was taken months ago to vary the selection process taking into consideration the realities of our current circumstances, revise selection criteria were developed by the board and approved by the membership," said Comissiong, who added that the NAAATT will finalise the team and submit to the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) early July.
"The last date for the qualification for the Olympics is on June 29, this is two days after our second Olympic trials. We plan to select our team on July 1. This takes into consideration that World Athletics, will be inviting some athletes to participate, by way of example the current quota for the heptathlon is 24 athletes, that is to say that the organisers want 24 athletes to compete at the Olympics in that event. Not all of these athletes may make the standard.
"Let's say 14 athletes attain the standard then an additional 10 athletes will be invited based on their performance rankings."
He used star multi-sport athlete Tyra Gittens as an example in explaining the invitation process by World Athletics saying: "Our Tyra Gittens has been having a wonderful year and is currently 23rd on the rankings. We expect that Tyra would attain the standard but let's just say she didn't, then July 1, we should know for sure if she is among those who will be invited to compete.
"We have already advised TTOC that our team will be submitted late on the night of July 1 or alternatively very early on the morning of July 2. This will allow sufficient time for ratification by the TTOC council before the final submission of entries."
Yesterday, in the Ministry of Health's latest COVID-19 update, there have been were 327 new positive cases and nine deaths reported in the last 24 hours. T&T has reported 8,965 active positive cases and 686 deaths, overall.