Last week the IFSC added two athletes to the roster for the 2020 Olympics (which are now scheduled for 2021). France's Anouck Jaubert and Italy's Michael Piccolruaz will compete in the Tokyo Games. The two received the invites reserved for the IFSC's Tripartite Commission. They were chosen based on their performance at the 2019 World Championships, being the next athletes in the rankings that were not yet qualified, taking country quotas into account. The athletes shared their enthusiasm on social media.
"In short, after two-and-a-half years devoted to training for the Olympics, I know that I will be part of it and it's a great relief," wrote Jaubert on Facebook. " But this is just one step! Now I have a little over a year left to train and get to Tokyo at the top of the top."
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"I still remember watching the Speed Final of the World Championship in Tokyo last year as if it was yesterday. If I had known back then how much was depending on that single race I for sure wouldn't have believed it," wrote Piccolruaz on Instagram. "To keep it short: [Ludovico Fossali] absolutely had to win, then he slipped, I thought all dreams are over, then Jan [Hojer] slipped, Ludo won... I made it to the combined semis, got a 14th place, well, and now... I guess that 14th place really earned me a ticket to the Olympics! I mean, the freaking Olympic games!!Wow, this really is unbelievable!"
While the majority of Olympic berths are awarded via competition performance, one slot is reserved, per gender, to be awarded by the Tripartite Commission. An International Olympic Committee (IOC) document explains the intention for these placements:
"The objective of the Commission is to manage the allocation procedure for Invitation Places offering the opportunity to NOCs [National Organizing Committees], which have traditionally sent small delegations to the Olympic Games, to be represented at the next edition of the Games. A further objective of the Commission is to contribute to enhancing and reflecting universality by selecting athletes from such NOCs, which have not been able to qualify, so that they may have an opportunity to be invited to compete in sports and disciplines for which Invitation Places have been reserved."
To put it another way, the goal is to increase the diversity at the Games by allowing more countries to be represented. In order to be eligible for these invitations, athletes must meet some requirements:
- International competition experience in one of the sports/disciplines offering Invitation Places
- An adequate sporting technical level
- Shown willingness to qualify for the Olympic Games by participating in the relevant qualifying events
How these qualifications are applied in practice is determined by each sport's governing body. The IFSC determined that athletes must have competed in the Combined event at the 2019 World Championships in Hachioji, Japan, which was the first Olympic Qualification event. Only one athlete attended who could have been eligible to receive the Tripartite placement: Pakistan's Zaheer Ahmad. Unfortunately, Ahmad was not aware of the situation.
According to a story on 8a.nu, the IFSC had contributed to Ahmad's travel costs so that he could compete in the Hachoiji event. They did not explain the Tripartite Commission placements to Ahmad, so he did not compete in the lead discipline, and thus was not eligible. Ahmad told 8a.nu:
"I am training speed climbing five days a week for almost two years now with a long term goal in my mind to make it to Paris 2024. Our resources are very limited with not even an auto-belay and auto-timer yet i like it.
"We are [a] few guys training hard to improve and it was an honor for me to be selected for Hachioji. I am devastated. If i just participated in Lead my dream would come true, which would definitely changed my life forever.
"I really hope my federation can ask [the] IFSC why they forget to mention such an amazing and unique tripartite quota, and if it would be still possible to make it to Tokyo. I appreciate this idea of giving opportunity to athletes for minor Olympic countries can make their dream come true."
Ahmad participated in speed, his specialty, and bouldering at the World Championships. Had he entered the lead event, regardless of his performance, he would have received the Tripartite invite. No one was eligible to receive the invites as intended, but the guidelines included a fallback plan:
"If the Tripartite Commission is not able to allocate a Tripartite Commission Invitation Place, it will be reallocated to the next highest placed athlete, not yet qualified, in the Combined World Championships 2019, respecting the maximum quota per gender per NOC."
Jaubert and Piccolruaz received their invites as a result.
There are now eight slots left for the 2020 Olympic climbing event–four per gender. They will be awarded at the remaining continental championship events, most of which do not yet have dates following postponements:
- IFSC European Championships in Moscow (RUS), from October 1 to 8
- IFSC African Championships in Cape Town (RSA), date TBD
- IFSC Asian Championships, location and date TBD
- IFSC Oceania Championships in Sydney (AUS), date TBD
With the Olympic invites going to Anouck Jaubert and Michael Piccolruaz, France has reached its athlete quote, while Italy only has one female spot remaining. As a result, favorites such as Fanny Gibert and Stefano Ghisolfi will not be able to qualify at the European Championships. Both athletes shared their reaction on Instagram.
The IFSC has announced that the qualification process will have to conclude by December 31, 2020.