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ENGLISH VERSION: Track and field athletes strike back after Diamond League cuts

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The decision to cut discus from the Diamond League has caused massive criticism and upset among the elite athletes of the discipline.
– I was crushed, devastated. You can’t do that, says world champion Daniel Ståhl to SVT Sport.

The IAAF has decided to cut disciplines such as triple jump and discus from next year’s Diamond League competitions. A protest has been initiated by Daniel Ståhl and his coach Vesteinn Hafsteinsson, and today they published an open letter expressing their disapproval.

Ståhl says the decision has caused strong reactions among his co-competitors.

– They are devastated, obviously. They are all angry. This is discrimination, pure and simple. You can’t just get rid of the oldest sport of all time. Discus was invented in 776 BC and has been practiced all over the world up until now. Discus is the heart of the athletic events of the Olympics, it has always been there.

How did it make you feel?

– I was crushed, devastated. You can’t do that. You can’t just get rid of a sport. It’s like taking cross-country skiing from Charlotte Kalla, or Wimbledon tennis from Roger Federer. Removing discus from the Diamond League, the equivalent of the Champions League for football, is just terrible. It’s appalling.

Starting a protest

Star athletes around the world have reacted strongly. On Thursday, triple jumper and celebrity athlete Christian Taylor launched a new union, The Athletics Association.

Daniel Ståhl’s coach Vesteinn Hafsteinsson was saddened to hear the news on Wednesday.

– The reaction on my part was that I started shaking, my head started spinning and I felt as if my legs went numb. I had some kind of shock. That was my initial reaction, and for that reason I didn’t answer any calls that evening. I needed to let it sink in, he tells SVT Sport.

The open letter they published, signed by world names such as Fedrick Dacres and Gerd Kanter, has been sent to recipients such as Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF.

– This is the biggest scandal I’ve experienced in my life. It’s absolutely incredible that they can come up with the idea of throwing out certain disciplines and discriminating against people. People will quit as a result of this. I’ve heard that Lukas Weisshaidinger, third in the World Championships, will quit if this is realised. I’ve also said that I will quit. If this decision stands, it’s still a possibility. I mean that. But for now I’ve decided to fight this, and lead this initiative, this open letter, about to be sent out to the world. I will take this fight, and we will go to war, we will fight back against the IAAF, says Vesteinn Hafsteinsson.

Proposal turned down – wants Coe to resign

Both the Swedish Athletics Association and throwers’ organization Global Throwers, which Vesteinn is part of, have submitted proposals to the IAAF during the autumn, suggesting what could be done to allow all events to remain within the Diamond League circuit.

– We’ve had no response. They talk about cooperation, but they don’t listen to anyone. I would like to know who’s in charge. All decisions are made behind closed doors. Who are they? Come forward! Put your money where your mouth is. Talk to us, says Hafsteinsson emphatically.

Among those proposals were:

  • Alternate javelin and discus every other year.
  • A maximum of eight competitors, eliminating the need for reduction after three attempts.
  • Four attempts instead of six and two attempts per height in the high jump instead of three, to decrease the time taken to complete events.
  • Move the warm-up to outside the arena, preferably to portable facilities, so that athletes can start competing as soon as they enter the arena.
  • Two disciplines simultaneously. Most arenas have double capacity so, for instance, the men’s long jump and the women’s triple jump could take place at the same time and would not take more time from the programme than one single event.

– I can’t believe that my idol, Sebastian Coe – who is not my idol anymore – supports this decision. I don’t understand what is going on inside his head. I would like to get rid of the whole IAAF council. I don’t mind saying that I would be very happy to see Sebastian Coe step down, says Hafsteinsson.

Link to the open letter.

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