(by Steve Hopkins)
ITTF has announced key amendments to the qualification system for the Tokyo Olympics. The changes mostly involve updating the calendar to push back deadlines and to use 2021 events and rankings to determine some categories of qualifiers for the Olympics which are now scheduled for 2021.
The Continental Qualification Event deadlines for singles and mixed doubles events have been pushed back one year. Qualification events are to be completed no later than April 30, 2021. This affects Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Oceana. *NOTE* The North American qualification event had already occurred in March with Canadians Mo Zhang and Eugene Wang qualifying through the event – Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang of the US both qualified in February based upon their World Rankings.
The World Singles Qualification Event has also been pushed back one year. This event will occur prior to May 31, 2021. The exact date of the event will not be set until after the Continental Qualification Events are scheduled.
Olympic Mixed Doubles qualifications involved automatic births based upon winning major events – events that were scheduled in 2020 but are now postponed or cancelled. The ITTF has noted that these automatic births will likely be reassigned to events in early 2021. The affected events thus far are the Japan Open and the World Tour Grand Finals though other provisioned World Tour events could be affected as more postponed events are cancelled in 2020.
In Singles, the automatic qualification awarded by ranking is now being pushed back a year. That is, the top ranked player in June of 2021 will automatically qualify. Similarly, the Host Country may potentially also have automatic births into events where players from the Host would not otherwise have qualified. As Japan has strong teams on both the Men’s and Women’s sides, this is unlikely to be necessary – but that determination will be made based upon rankings in June of 2021 as well.
The ITTF further noted a need to update and reassess rankings and this system moving forward as the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to affect competition worldwide. They will endeavor to treat everyone fairly and to keep the system transparent, providing details of any modification as early as possible as things become more certain.