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2020 Olympic Qualifying Coming Into View

April 18, 2018 by  

2020 Olympic Qualifying BMX RacingBy Carl Lein

The four-year Olympic cycle always seems to sneak up on us. It seems like yesterday when Connor Fields brought home the USA’s first BMX gold medal and here we are again looking at the qualification process for Tokyo 2020. On March 29th the UCI officially released the “QUALIFICATION SYSTEM – GAMES OF THE XXXII OLYMPIAD – TOKYO 2020″.

The first and biggest thing that jumps out is an equal number of men and women will be competing; 24 of each gender. This is a huge change from the last three iterations where there were 32 men and only 16 women.

Once you get your mind around that the next thing you notice is that only two countries will get to send three athletes. In 2016 four countries were able to send three men (USA, France, Australia, and the Netherlands) and no country has ever sent three women. This will certainly tighten up the men’s competition while opening up the women’s a bit.

As in 2016 the first qualification criteria will be based on the UCI’s Nations Points. This is a ranking system which considers each nation’s top three scorers (which might be a Junior rider aged 17-18).

The time period for the ranking will be from 1 September 2018 to 1 June 2020 and will include the 2019 and 2020 Worlds, the best 14 UCI SX finishes, the best Continental Championship score, best three HC event scores, best seven C1 event finishes, and the 2019 National Championship race from each country.

The top two countries in Nations Points qualify three riders each. Countries ranked 3rd through 5th qualify two riders each and those ranked 6th through 11th nab one rider each.

The next criteria that will qualify a country will be based on the UIC’s Elite Individual rankings as of 1 June 2020. This will only qualify a country that is not already qualified via Criteria #1. The best three countries in men and women will qualify one rider each.

The third qualification criteria is based on the Elite results at the 2020 UCI World Championships. The two countries that have Elite riders finishing the highest at the 2020 Worlds will each qualify one rider to Tokyo.

That leaves the Host Nation spots, so Japan is guaranteed one man and one woman. If any country declines an earned spot or Japan qualifies a rider through one of the first three criteria then that spot will be reallocated to the country next in the UCI Olympic Qualification ranking.

If any spots still go unfilled then the UCI Tripartite Commission will reallocate that unused spot. The UCI will also make every effort to ensure that every continent is represented at the Olympics.

While everyone knows that most countries are not chasing points until the qualification period begins in September it’s still interesting to see where everyone is at now in the current rankings.

In the current points standings and using the qualification criteria France and the Netherlands would qualify three men and the Netherlands and Russia would be taking three women. The USA would be taking two men and women.

Each Olympic cycle, some countries step up while others are perennial powerhouses. With the rule changes it will be interesting to see which countries will max out and who will be left short handed.

France, the Netherlands, and the USA will certainly be competing for the top two men’s spots, but with the top French riders living and competing in the U.S. that could leave a country like Russia to consistently get three riders into the main events in Europe.

The women’s side will be a different story with not many nations having three women consistently make the finals, so look for a Junior to possibly round out many country’s third rider in the Nations Points.

The UCI have changed the qualification process at each Olympics and not always for the better. I believe that this edition will be a mixed bag.

I like that they decreased the number of riders qualifying by means of the Worlds. That criteria often only required a rider to make it out of the motos in order to go to the big show; not exactly the top of the heap.

I think it is equitable that the men’s and women’s numbers will be equal, but I think it will water down the women’s competition and greatly increase that of the men’s.

In the past there were several men who were off the back while all 16 of the women could be in any main anywhere in the world. This time I believe it will be the opposite.

Regardless, everyone will be rooting for their fellow countrymen and countrywomen; or just their favorite racer.

Can Connor repeat? Which Junior rider will step up the Elite challenge? Is there an underdog racer out there? Can the USA take home the women’s gold? Stay tuned!

—Carl

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