Empty Starting Blocks; Canada Toughens Its Standards for Olympic Athletes
Byline: Susan H. Greenberg and Barry Brown
Carol Howe is Canada's third fastest female marathoner, with a best time of 2 hours 34 minutes. That's a full three minutes faster than the International Olympic Committee's qualifying standard. Yet when the women's Olympic marathon kicks off in Athens Aug. 22, Howe won't be running. Neither will any other Canadian woman--or man. The reason? The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) has made its national standards so tough--2:28. 14 for women and 2:12.38 for men--that no marathoner has qualified. After disappointing showings in Atlanta and Sydney, the COC hopes to boost the country's proportion of medalists by sending only its most competitive runners, says Martin Goulet, director of endurance programs for the national team. That rankles athletes who have been training for years and who say it contradicts the spirit of the Games. "I have no chance at a medal, but is that the point?" says Howe, 38, who lives and trains in Summit, N.J. "I made the Olympic team. It's just that Canada has chosen not to send me."
Runners aren't the only Canadian athletes with shattered dreams this summer. Standards have been tightened across the board, shutting out competitors in everything from judo to diving. Under the old system, athletes had to rank in the top 16 worldwide to qualify for the Olympics, says Mark Lowry, the COC's executive director for sport. …