Athletic power a collective effort

2014-11-16 15:00

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Athletics SA (ASA) can learn a lot from the US and Jamaican athletics systems on how to tick the right boxes in the sport’s development.

Four-time Olympic individual sprint medallist Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago, offered this advice during his visit to South Africa for the inaugural Global Athletics Conference, which ended in Durban yesterday.

The two-day gathering focused on initiating dialogue on new thinking to improve the sport.

“If South Africa really wants to start a powerhouse system, get the best athletes and have them trained together, that’s the part that often gets overlooked,” said Boldon.

“South Africa can learn a lot from the US system. I’m a product of the system. Then the Jamaican high school championships system is second to none. Go there [every year] in March for the championships and you get 30?000 people in the stands, which says a lot about the popularity of the sport.

“If I were to identify what the US system does right, it almost becomes a glorified club system. Most of the best athletes in the world are coming out of a group. Think about Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis.”

South African sprinter and rising star Anaso Jobodwana is benefiting from the US system, where the 22-year-old is the sprint double champion in the collegiate championships.

“Jobodwana is already a pioneer. Whether or not he is respected here [in South Africa], there are young people looking up to him. It’s not only your most famous or most medalled athlete that can have that sort of a catalyst effect – sometimes it’s just being in the mix, and young kids see it.”

It has been a long while since ASA developed track and field athletes and some of the promising talent got lost along the way.

In his presentation to the national sports portfolio committee in Parliament two months ago, ASA president Aleck Skhosana outlined the federation’s development department business plan, which also highlighted the need for technical officials.

The document noted that athletes should be introduced to the sport at the age of six, while general skills development will target 11- to 13-year-olds.

Future champions will be identified at the age of between 17 and 23. Boldon advised South Africa should cast the net wide while developing.

KwaZulu-Natal Athletics president Sello Mokoena said: “KwaZulu-Natal is rolling out the development plan at school level in February. We want to start with interschool competitions, then the district and the provincial level. We can later challenge other provinces to contest the interprovincials.”

Mokoena said athletics would also grow if there was a broadcast partner in place.

Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) hosted its annual talent identification programme in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, yesterday. The selected athletes will be roped into the CGA development squad.

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