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I'm 17 and I do the decathlon in high school. My country has a terrible sports history and doesn't have a record for half of the athletics events.

Their record for decathlon was set in 1979 and is only 6412 points. I am close to this number and I wonder: can an athlete take part in the Olympic Games for their country even while being worse than the average athlete at the Olympics?

By the time the next Olympics start I should be at around 7000 points and I want (like every other athlete) to go to the Olympics. I've seen cases of athletes put in just because the country had nobody else.

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Entry by Qualifying Standards

In decathlon, your ability compared to the average athlete is irrelevant; what you need is to meet the fixed entry standard within a certain time period prior to the Games, for yourself.

The entry standard for the 2016 Olympic Games decathlon event was

  • a score of 8100 or greater,

  • obtained at an IAAF-approved event

  • between 1 January 2015 and 11 July 2016

This gave about 18 months of events, and qualifying ended four weeks prior to the opening ceremony.

A similar standard and qualifying period can be expected for the 2020 Olympic Games; you could need a score notably above 8000 at an IAAF event during 2019 or 2020 prior to the Games' beginning.

Entry by Nomination

If you do not meet this standard, there may be one "saving grace" method of entry.

For the 2016 Olympic Games, contrary to prior Games, a National Olympic Committee which did not have any athletes meet the entry standards in one of a list of specific events, could nominate a single athlete (in each sex, as and where appropriate) for those specific events not qualified to. This guaranteed every NOC could have at least one athlete in every event of the athletics components of the games, if they so desired.

It is not known whether this alternative method of entry will be in place for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. You should aim to learn and to meet the full qualifying standard regardless of whether others in your country can or cannot also meet it.

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    This looks like an excellent answer. Could you add some sources to cite? – Ben Miller Feb 27 '17 at 12:42
  • To add to this: In athletics, the "entry by nomination" is usually in events which can handle arbitrarily large numbers of athletes, e.g. the 100m (which has a preliminary round with dozens of athletes) or the marathon (on a road course where field-size variation of a few dozen athletes won't affect the competition). The relative size of the decathlon field, however, has a direct and significant effect on the competition schedule, and consequently entry by nomination in this event might be more difficult. – pjmorse Feb 28 '17 at 19:19
  • To be more specific about my above point: for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, the route you've described as "entry by nomination" specifically excepts the combined events (heptathlon/decathlon) from entry this way. Decathletes hoping to compete in London need to beat the standard. I expect this will be true of Tokyo as well. If you can get entry by nomination, it won't be in the decathlon. – pjmorse Apr 25 '17 at 18:04

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