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Why track would benefit from major championships

Tennis and road running have competitions like Wimbledon and the Boston Marathon that stand above the rest, so why doesn’t track and field have major championships?

In a recent blog post written by NAZ Elite coach Ben Rosario, the topic of conversation was the state of running and track and how it could be improved by the Olympic Games in 2028. He wrote that he hopes by then, “we’re in a place where the Olympics is no longer the pinnacle of our sport.” How can this happen? By adding track and field major championships. Tennis, golf and marathons all have “major” competitions, and while the Olympics are still a big deal in each of these sports, Wimbledon, The Masters and the Boston Marathon are really the pinnacle events. Adding majors to track could take the sport to the next level. 

Andrea Seccafien lines up at the 2017 IAAF World Track & Field Championships in London, England. Photo: Claus Andersen

Yearly events 

Right now in track and field, the biggest events are the Olympics and the world championships. The Olympics come around once every four years, and the world championships occur every two. Adding yearly major events to the track calendar that are as important to athletes as the Olympics and world championships would make the sport so much more exciting to watch, and it would give athletes big goals to chase year in and year out. 

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In tennis, Wimbledon and the Australian, French and U.S. opens are the pinnacles of the sport, and they each see a champion crowned every year. The Olympics are important to these athletes, but much more weight is placed on one of the sport’s four yearly major championships rather than the quadrennial Summer Games.

Olympic 10,000m at the 2012 London Olympics. Photo: Citizen59 via Wikimedia Commons.

Can’t-miss events

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In tennis and golf, no athlete misses the major championships unless they’re injured or other circumstances prevent them from attending the events. On the marathon circuit, it’s a little more difficult for elites to compete at each event, but the world’s best marathoners rarely go an entire season without competing in at least one of the Abbott World Majors. In track, there are big events each year, like in the Diamond League, but there’s no guarantee that the sport’s biggest names will be in attendance at these races. 

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Making track mainstream 

For the most part, at this point in time, track is a sport that people only watch every four years. Every now and then CBC airs a track meet, but it’s not a common occurrence. Adding track majors would put the sport into the mainstream. Even the least enthusiastic of tennis fans watch the Wimbledon finals every year, and people who would normally rather watch paint dry than watch a full round of golf stare at the TV for hours every April when The Masters are on. Casual viewers would be much more likely to tune in to watch track if they knew the events mattered as much as the Olympics. 

Chicago Marathon
Photo: Chicago Marathon.

How would it work?

There would of course be a lot of debate as to where these majors would land, but Rosario pitched four possible events: the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., “The Championships” in London, “The German Open” in Berlin and the “Tokyo Meet of Champions” in Japan. Spread these out over the year, just like the Abbott World Marathon Majors, and the world’s best track athletes will be likely to attend each one. It might take a while to give these events a real authentic feeling of significance, but after a few years (Rosario hopes by 2028), the Majors of Track and Field could be of equal or more importance than the Olympic Games.