Downhill: protected ridersThis discussion has an associated proposal. View Proposal Details here.
Comments about this discussion:
A protected rider is allowed to race in the DH Finals/Elite race, even if he/she fails the qualification.
Why: a simple mechanical problem or other unlucky situations in qualification could mean that otherwise very strong DH riders miss their main competition, the DH finals. It is in the interest of the sport, audience, sponsors, etc. that the strongest riders compete in the finals.
Who would be protected: in general, only the top riders. For example, the 10 fastest DH riders at the previous world championships would be protected at the next world championship.
The concept of protected riders is also used in other sports. For example, in the mountain bike DH world cup, the top 20 riders based on previous performances are protected (80 riders compete in the finals).
There are a few options on how to implement such a rule. For example, how many riders are protected and how are they selected? Is the protection unconditional or does it only apply in the case of a mechanical problem? Will a protected rider that fails to qualify the regular way replace a qualified rider or will he/she be allowed to start in addition to the already qualified riders (i.e. as the 21st rider for finals with 20 riders).
A few months before Unicon in Korea, I was approached about introducing a rule concerning protected riders. I asked several DH competitors for feedback, both those who would be protected and those who would not be protected. The majority was in favor of such a rule, but there was quite a bit of disagreement on the exact implementation.
In the end, I decided to make the top 10 male and top 5 female riders based on their Unicon 18 results protected. 20 male and 10 female riders were to participate in the finals of Unicon 19. The protection would only apply in the case of a mechanical issue (flat tire or broken unicycle part).
What happened: out of the 15 protected riders, 11 made the trip to Korea. One did not compete in DH due to injury. Out of the 10 protected riders that participated, everyone qualified for finals based on their qualification run. Thus, the protected rider rule did not make a difference.
I looked at the results from the last few Unicons and if the same number of protected riders would have been used (10 male/5 female), 1 protected rider would have moved to the finals in both Spain and Montreal even though they didn't qualify the regular way (assuming unconditional protection, I don't know if they had a mechanical or not).
I would potentially be in support of this in the case of a mechanical problem (or perhaps some other extreme circumstance). I don't support unconditional protection.
I like the idea. We did something similar at Unicon III (Tokyo), where Daniel Dumeng dismounted in the 100m "Expert" race, so he wasn't qualified for the special heats that were done with, then, exotic electronic timing for submission to the Guinness Book of World Records. Several of us petitioned for Daniel to be allowed to enter, because he was a known fast rider, and without him, it would have been four Japanese guys and one American. This wasn't a Finals, that's what had happened earlier. This was several runs down the track to try to set the fastest possible Guinness record, to beat the one done by American Floyd Crandall, also in Japan, but way back in 1980.
Anyway, I think it should only apply to riders that had a mechanical DNF in their earlier race, or possibly if they were unable to start for other reasons such as illness, transportation-to-venue problems, etc. Simply not showing up would not be acceptable; it would have to be something out of the rider's control, and not bad planning. Or, if that's too much of a gray area, forget about it. :-)
What I don't like about this idea is that it's only open to riders who were able to attend the previous Unicon. Not everybody can afford to fly around the world, so this could be a hardship for some, and also ignores riders that may be obvious stand-outs at the current Unicon. If a "newbie" posts exceptional times in other events, it would be nice to have a mechanism that would allow them to also have protected status in the event of a breakdown in the earlier heat. Again, this is a gray area, so it may be hard to make into a rule with clear boundaries. Bit it would be nice to allow protection to known top riders who weren't at the previous Unicon.
How to add the protected rider(s)? Just add them to whoever else qualified. All of those people qualified legitimately.
I support this if it is a mechanical issue. I do agree that it's a bit challenging when new talent arrives on the scene but I'm not sure what to do about that.
Protected for mechanical, but not for just bad run. Absolutely not for "no show".
I also do not think the quantity of "protected places" should be definitive, if this does go through it should be "up to X riders".
In my opinion, protection of drivers is not necessary and desirable. It would not be fair to young drivers and non-participants of the previous Unicon. It also makes the qualification a farce.
A second run at the end of the qualifying run is conceivable for all drivers who had a real technical problem in the first run by no fault of their own. However, this must be defined precisely. Damage to the unicycle caused by a fall is not a technical problem, but caused by the rider. Which technical problems have already occurred during a qualification run?
However, the logical consequence of such a "protection rule" would also mean that two runs would be possible in the final always, and the better one would be counted.
On the whole, I am against a new "protection rule", as it only makes further difficult definitions necessary and perhaps also grants unfair advantages.
Thanks for your comments so far! I agree, let's restrict the protection rules to mechanical problems.
Gabriele, if protected riders are added to the finals *in addition* to those that qualified I don't see a big concern that young riders are at a disadvantage. They will be able to compete in the finals and only the result in the finals counts.
At Unicon 19, I remember that Ekhi had a flat tire after qualification. I don't know exactly when he got the flat, but in an unlucky case, it could have meant that he would have missed finals.
Do we need to say something in the proposal about how protected riders would be added in addition to the other qualified riders? Or is that up to the race referee? I feel that something needs to be stated about this.
Also, to keep it cleaner we can just use the pronoun they instead of he/she.
Or “the rider” instead of he, she, or the singular “they” since it may be more easily understood by a non-native English speaker.