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Your Road to the Olympic Team – How to Become an Olympic Track & Field Athlete

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How to Qualify for an Olympic Team
The U.S. Olympic track and field team is selected at four Olympic Trials. The men’s 50-kilometer race walking team is selected at one trial while the men’s and women’s marathon teams are each selected at a separate trial. The remainder of the team is selected at the U.S. Track and Field Trials. Generally, the top three finishers in each event at the Trials will qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, subject to those athletes achieving IAAF Olympic qualification standards (see below). The only team members selected by discretion of the USATF are members of the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relay teams. Six athletes are included on each relay team, even though only four compete in a relay event. Each qualifying nation may send one team in each relay event to the Olympic Games (see below for IAAF qualification rules). IAAF Olympic Qualifying Standards
Athletes who qualify for the U.S. Olympic team must also achieve the IAAF’s Olympic qualification standards, with a few exceptions. As with the U.S. Trials, the IAAF sets “A” and “B” qualification standards. The 2012 men’s “A” standards are:
  • 100 meters: 10.18 seconds
  • 200 meters: 20.55
  • 400 meters: 45.30
  • 800 meters: 1:45.6
  • 1500 meters: 3:35.50
  • 5000 meters: 13:20.00
  • 10,000 meters: 27:45.0
  • marathon: 2:15:00
  • 3000-meter steeplechase: 8:23.10
  • 110-meter hurdles: 13.52
  • 400-meter hurdles: 49.50
  • 20-kilometer race walk: 1:22:30
  • 50-kilometer race walk: 3:59:00
  • decathlon: 8200 points
  • high jump: 2.31 meters
  • pole vault: 5.72
  • long jump: 8.20
  • triple jump: 17.20
  • shot put: 20.50
  • discus: 65.00
  • hammer: 78.0
  • javelin: 82.0


The 2012 women’s “A” standards are:
  • 100 meters: 11.29
  • 200 meters: 23.10
  • 400 meters: 51.55
  • 800 meters: 1:59.9
  • 1500 meters: 4:06.0
  • 5000 meters: 15:20.0
  • 10,000 meters: 31:45.0
  • marathon: 2:37:00
  • 3000-meter steeplechase: 9:43.0
  • 100-meter hurdles: 12.96
  • 400-meter hurdles: 55.50
  • 20-kilometer race walk: 1:33:30
  • heptathlon: 6150 points
  • high jump: 1.95 meters
  • pole vault: 4.50
  • long jump: 6.75
  • triple jump: 14.30
  • shot put: 18.30
  • discus: 62.0
  • hammer: 71.50
  • javelin: 61.0


The relays are the only events without time or distance standards. Instead, the world’s top 16 teams – based on the aggregate of the two fastest times by national teams during the qualification period – are invited. Nations can name any runners they choose, but if a country has competitors in the individual event, those runners must be on the relay team. For example, if a team qualifies in the 4 x 100-meter relay, any runners that nation has entered in the straight 100, including a reserve, must be part of the relay squad.

See the IAAF Entry Standards for full Olympic qualification and eligibility details.

Back to Olympic Track and Field main page

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