Brazier simply had a bad day, something to which everyone can relate. For that, he was punished with the shattering of his Olympic dream.
The Olympic track and swimming trials are unforgiving. Both select Olympians on the basis of a single race for swimmers and runners and a single field event for throwers, jumpers and vaulters.
It should not be this way. Most other countries do it differently, selecting their teams, at least in part, on the basis of overall performance over time. The UK’s system is a model we should consider. The British Olympic Association, in conjunction with each of the 33 Olympic sports national governing bodies, selects the team based on competitors’ “potential to excel at the Olympics.” While this customarily means that the top finishers at the UK trials make the team, it allows for flexibility to select others who might not have excelled at the trials, but whose recent past performances merit consideration.
Even in the U.S., several other sports take a different, more equitable approach to choosing their Olympic athletes. Gymnastics, for one, selects several team members on the basis of one or two competitions (the U.S. championships and the Olympic trials—the men’s and women’s teams do the selection a little bit differently from one another) and the rest using other criteria that reflect either performances over time or prowess in a particular gymnastics exercise.
Both U.S. track and swimming should follow suit. Since only two swimmers can go to the Olympics in each event, perhaps only the trials winner should get one spot while the other might be based on performances across recent competitions. Similarly, perhaps the top two performers at the track and field trials should qualify, with the third spot going to a competitor who proved himself or herself over a specified time period.
It seems grossly unfair to me, a former track and swimming competitor, that a single contest on a particular day should destroy a career of top-tier excellence and Olympic aspiration.
July 2, 2021