IAAF deems ‘fastest loser’ inappropriate for World Championships

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Photo: Alex Seftel

The term “fastest loser” has been deemed to be inappropriate by the IAAF, who are looking to move the phrase out of athletics to avoid the risk of devaluing athletes’ performances.

Reporters have normally used the term to refer to athletes who have run the fastest times out of all those who did not earn an automatic qualifying spot in a heat or semi-final. These athletes will then usually qualify for the next round despite missing out on the top places.

Instead, the phrase “fastest non-qualifiers” has been deemed as the preferred term to use due to it sounding more positive than “fastest loser”, although there is no official ban on using the phrase.

“There hasn’t been an official policy to drop the phrase ‘fastest loser’,” said an IAAF spokesperson, “but the move away from it reflects the evolution of the language. We want to recognise making finals or making it through a heat is a good thing, whatever place an athlete finishes.”

While this decision does not realistically change much about the sport, it certainly provides a talking point on what the boundaries should be when talking about an athlete’s performance.

One source gathered by the Guardian joked that “soon we’ll have to call them all winners…but some were just a little bit faster than the others.”

It won’t be long before this phrase is officially put into practice, with the 2019 IAAF World Championships beginning today in Doha, Qatar.

Coverage of day one will be available from 13:45 BST on BBC Two, with athletes such as double Diamond Trophy winner Noah Lyles and multiple world High Jump champion Mariya Lasitskene in action.