World Athletics President Seb Coe talks to LetsRun about XC at the Olympics, Oregon’s legacy22 and World Athletics’ DSD politics

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By Jonathan Gault
December 21, 2021

Jakob Ingebrigtsen spent the first years of his incredible career as a conqueror. The lazy choice would be to compare the 21-year-old Norwegian prodigy to a Viking, but Ingebrigtsen doesn’t roam Europe in search of riches. No our man is Alexander The Great, a prodigy continually testing the limits of his ability not for the treasure, but to see how far it can go. After conquering the track this year – a 1,500 Olympic title in Tokyo and a world record of 12:48 5km in Florence – Ingebrigtsen closed his 2021 campaign by extending his reach to 10,000 meters and beating the best of his continent at European cross-country. Championships in Dublin on December 12.

President of the Athletics World Seb coe, two-time Olympic champion in the 1500m, paid attention to it.

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“I was delighted that Ingebrigtsen won the Europeans,” Coe said on a call with US and UK media on Friday. “Because it rather took a trainer and a horse through modern training thinking that you can’t be a great athlete on the track and win in cross country at the same time. I’m surprised if anyone has ever offered this nostrum, and certainly never discussed it with Haile gebrselassie Where Paul Tergat. “

The idea is not quite that you cannot be successful in both disciplines simultaneously. In recent years, some of the biggest stars in sports such as Kenenisa Bekele, Joshua Cheptegei, Viviane Cheruiyot, and Hellen Obiri won world titles in cross-country and track in the same year. Rather, it is that a number of top athletes have refused to run cross country for two main reasons: it is not a priority (there are not many prizes in XC and you do not may not achieve an Olympic / World Qualifying Standard *) or they (or their coach) fear injury while running on anything other than perfectly manicured turf.

Maybe Ingebrigtsen, who has been racing (and winning) at Euro XC since 2016, will change his mind. In this sport, races are big because of Who is in them. If the 1500 Olympic champion continues to show up on the cross country courses, maybe others will too.

“I really feel, for all kinds of reasons, and some of them just as athletic, that cross country really matters,” Coe said.

So important, Coe believes, that he wants to see cross country at the Olympics.

Coe still wants cross-country at the Olympics: “I am not going out of this agenda ”

Joshua Cheptegei winning World XC in 2019

Last year, World Athletics presented a cross-country proposal for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The format would have been a mixed relay: four athletes per country (two men, two women) each performing two laps of a 2.5 kilometer course.

“We got close to it for Paris,” Coe said, but the proposal was ultimately rejected.

Cross-country hasn’t been featured at the Olympics for almost a century – it was part of the 1912, 1920 and 1924 Games program before it was dropped – but despite the setback, the idea of ​​cross- country at the Olympics is very much alive at World Athletics HQ.

“The door is open,” Coe said. “… It seems very likely that if the door is left open and we land, the 2028 Summer Games would be our first opportunity.” “

Cross country at the Summer Olympics isn’t Coe’s first choice. But if it comes down to the Summer Olympics or nothing, Coe would love to see it at the Summer Olympics.

“I tend to think it’s more comfortable in the winter than in the summer,” said Coe, advocating for the inclusion of cross country in the Winter Olympics. “The IOC has told me in the past that you can only practice winter sport on snow and ice. But I haven’t been so aware of the recent Olympics where there was an abundance of snow and ice everywhere.

Either way, Coe will continue to push for the inclusion of cross country in the Olympics – “I’m not leaving this agenda,” he said.

Cross country was just one of the topics Coe touched on in a broad discussion of the state of the sport, including updates on DSD rules and the 2022 Worlds below. More below.

(LRC Editorial: Seb Coe is right: cross country must participate in the Olympics – the Winter Olympics)

Athletics is the most watched sport of the Tokyo Olympics

Coe likes to refer to athletics as the No.1 Olympic sport and after the 2020 Olympics he has the numbers to prove it. Sharing data from a study commissioned by the IOC and conducted by Publicis Sport & Entertainment, Coe reported that athletics at Tokyo 2020 had a total of 2.2 million hours broadcast, a weighted measure based on height. audience and the length of the program. That number, Coe said, was “by far the highest of all Olympic sports.”

Not only that, but athletics was the subject of the highest number of articles in the media (around 10,000), and these articles were shared more times on social media (over 700 million) than those any other sport.

“We came out of the Olympics as the No.1 Olympic sport,” Coe said. “You have heard me say it time and time again, and I particularly like to say it when I am in the circles of the International Olympic Committee and especially when I am surrounded by other presidents of federations in other Olympic sports.

But the number of spectators at the Olympics has never been a problem for the sport. The other three years and 11 months of an Olympic cycle need to improve. Recently, World Athletics extended its broadcast rights agreement with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) until 2029, with whom Coe says he discussed exciting creative possibilities.

“Maybe in the documentary series, around athletics, a similar type of Netflix Drive to survive-type documentary that would allow behind the scenes, ”Coe said. “[It would provide us with] the opportunity to access new audiences who might not naturally turn to our sport the way Formula 1 has been significantly affected by this and the European interest in basketball, especially in the UK , which was triggered by The last dance. They are important vehicles and we must use them. “

The 2022 Worlds in Eugene are a great opportunity, but capitalizing on it will be difficult

When World Athletics awarded the 2022 Worlds to Eugene six years ago (initially scheduled for 2021, postponed for a year due to COVID), he made no secret of why. Then known as the IAAF, World Athletics felt it was so important to have its first event in the United States – home to the world’s best track team (and biggest economy) – that he abandoned the usual application process and just gave the meet to Eugene.

Courtesy of the University of Oregon

In the years that followed, Coe constantly spoke about the importance of developing the sport in the United States and making American stars into household names. Recently he wrote a letter to the member federations of World Athletics making it clear that the more popular athletics is in the world’s largest market, the better for everyone involved in the sport.

Oregon, I’ll shamelessly tell you, is a very important time for our sport, ”said Coe. “… We have to go from there with what I described as the indelible imprint. “

What remains unclear is how, exactly, it will happen. Coe was asked how to get details on World Athletics’ strategy to promote the sport and Oregon22 heading into next summer. As well as stressing the importance of communication and collaboration between World Athletics, USATF and the local organizing committee, his response was short on the details – although he noted that NBC would be able to promote the Worlds. during his coverage of the Open Championship golf tournament (to be held on the first weekend of the Worlds).

“It’s about social media, it’s going to be about expanding the footprint on traditional media, getting broadcasts, doing promotional work ahead of these championships,” Coe said.

One area where the United States made progress in 2021 was hosting meetings. When Coe spoke to LetsRun two years ago, he said it was “almost impossible” to find an American fixture to add to the Continental Tour (the fixture circuit a cut below the Diamond League). In 2021, there were 16 Continental Tour competitions in the United States, 10 of which were held for the first time, including the USATF Grand Prix at Hayward Field and the USATF Golden Games at Mt. SAC. . A second Diamond League meeting in the United States – another Coe goal – remains unlikely, but there are now more opportunities for the American stars to compete at home.

World Athletics DSD policies no update – yet

One of the most significant moments in Coe’s tenure as President of World Athletics was the creation of the World Athletics Women’s Eligibility Rules. Also known as DSD (Difference in Sexual Development) regulation, these are the rules that prevent intersex athletes – those with XY chromosomes, testes rather than ovaries, and testosterone levels in men – from participating in women’s 400-meter-to-mile events without first lowering their testosterone.

When World Athletics created the policy in 2018, it reserved the right to expand the restricted events if new evidence or scientific knowledge arose to support that position. And in 2021, we got more evidence. Christine mboma, the 18-year-old Namibian who broke an under-20 world record of 48.54 in the 400m in June, turned out to be DSD and advanced to the 200m, where she broke a world record in Under 20 of 21.78 and won Olympic silver and Diamond League Title. Another DSD athlete, the Burundian Francine Niyonsaba, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the 800m, moved up to longer distances and finished 5th in the Olympic 10,000m, broke the 2000m world record (5: 21.56) and won the title of the Diamond League in the 5,000m.

Following Mboma and Niyonsaba’s success, Coe was asked if World Athletics would attempt to expand the restricted events.

“We don’t have teams sitting here to look at the extensions of these disciplines that come under our rules right now, but everything is. [subject to] review, ”Coe said. “But don’t jump beyond my words into thinking that there is something immediate that is likely to happen…Future World Athletics councils might decide, alongside our health and science teams, that there are other disciplines that need to be considered. But for now, we are where we are.

Related: LRC Editorial: Seb Coe is right: cross country has to be in the Olympics – the Winter Olympics will give an entire continent a reason to tune in, because for the first time an African would win an Olympic medal from winter. Adding it to the Summer Olympics as a 4×2.5km relay would be a mistake.


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