Qualifying for the Olympics isn’t easy — and not just because of the sheer physical prowess needed to compete in the world’s biggest competition, but also because the qualifying rules can be really, really confusing.
That’s why a Greek lawyer and amateur runner didn’t realise that he had unexpectedly qualified for the Olympic marathon in Rio until two months after it was announced.
Michalis Kalomiris is a 30-year-old Athens resident and runner who says he is an “amateur training at sub-elite level,” according to Ekathimerini. When he ran the Rome Marathon back in March of 2015, he was pleased with his finishing time of two hours and 29 minutes. It’s certainly impressive, but to qualify for the Olympics men need to run a time of under two hours and 19 minutes — ten minutes faster than Kalomiris’ finish.
So, naturally, Kalomiris assumed he didn’t make the cut, as it would have been a bit of a long shot anyways. However the International Association of Athletic Federations, the organisation that governs track and field, has a rule stating that athletes who finish in the top 10 of a Gold Label event can qualify regardless of time.
The Rome Marathon was a Gold Label event. And Kalomiris placed in the top 10, in part because the weather conditions were terrible and other athletes didn’t brave the elements as fiercely as he did.
Kalomiris didn’t learn he’d made the cut until one day in May when he just happened to be reading an athletics news website and saw his own name listed among the qualifiers.
“When I asked if I could take three months off at the office, they were ready to support me,” he told Ekathimerini. “It was very important because it spared me the anxiety that I was letting them down.”
There’s almost no way that Kalmoiris has a shot at medaling in the upcoming Olympic marathon, which will be run on August 21, the last day of the games. The top professional runners in the race regularly finish with times that are almost a half-hour faster than Kalmoiris did.
Still, making it to the Olympics is a truly impressive achievement, especially when it comes as a surprise.
“I would like to think that this story makes everyone involved in running believe more in themselves and keep up the effort,” he said.
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