By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – Many top athletes, facing a world outdoor championships in Doha that do not start until late September, will be competing less, if at all, during the indoor season, coaches and athlete representatives have told Reuters.
Typically scheduled for August, the 2019 worlds were moved to Sept 27-Oct. 6 to avoid the worst of Doha’s heat.
But the adjustment could have ramifications stretching all the way to Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.
“With the long season in front of us, and the next couple of years with the world championships and the Olympics, I think most people are going to err on the side of caution and probably train through the indoor season,” said Renaldo Nehemiah, agent for world 100 metres champion Justin Gatlin.
“If they compete at all, they may run in an event just to break up the monotony of training.”
World 60m record holder Christian Coleman said as much in an August interview with Reuters.
“I doubt that I will run the 60, maybe run the 200, 300 maybe 4×4 just to be on top of training,” said Coleman, the 2017 world 100m silver medallist and a Doha favourite.
“It would be kind of hard for me to go out there and put down a fast time in the 60 and still be able to carry that all the way to October but we’ll see.”
Olympic and world triple jump champion Christian Taylor, Olympic hurdles gold medallist Brianna McNeal, indoor world pole vault winner Sandi Morris, Diamond League champions Noah Lyles and Fred Kerley and world indoor 60m bronze medallist Ronnie Baker all have limited or no indoor plans, their agents say.
“It’s completely out of the norm to be competing that late,” agent Paul Doyle said.
Internationally, British female athlete of the year Dina Asher-Smith, the European championships triple sprint gold medallist, and Kenyan world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri will not compete indoors, agent Ricky Simms said.
Bahamian Olympic 400m gold medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Canadian triple Olympic sprint medallist Andre De Grasse also are unlikely to.
“I am not a big fan of competing in the indoor season. It makes the season feel even longer,” Taylor said in an email to Reuters.
His season already will be lengthy with Taylor planning to compete in all Diamond League meetings which have a triple jump.
“It is quite difficult to adapt to change, but you have to trust yourself, your coach and also realise that everyone else in the sport is going through the same challenge,” said Taylor, who started his training a month later and sees the challenge as a learning opportunity.
Even without Taylor and other key athletes, indoor meetings won’t go lacking for known competitors, agents said.
Olympic shot put winner Ryan Crouser is planning to go all out at New York’s Millrose Games and the U.S. indoor championships, with Olympic and world silver medallist Joe Kovacs his biggest competition.
Boston’s indoor grand prix also have will top talent.
“But is it going to get everyone I want? I don’t think so,” said organiser Mark Wetmore.
Even Lyles will not be deciding until mid-December whether to have an indoor season, said Wetmore, his agent.
Coaches are pushing back normal training sessions and working on schedules to ensure athletes peak for the cut-throat U.S. championships in late July and again for the worlds.
But the biggest challenge is not this year, said Lance Brauman, who coaches Lyles, Miller-Uibo and others.
“The biggest thing is you are going to get about four weeks off (about half the normal down time) before you have to start training for the Olympics.
“That’s going to be the adjustment period more so than running into a later summer.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)