ASA getting back on track

2014-11-18 00:00

AFTER a number of years with administration issues, Athletics South Africa (ASA) seems to be back on track having hosted the inaugural Global Athletics Conference over the weekend.

A new board headed by Aleck Skhosana took over from an interim committee that was overseeing the transition of ASA earlier this year and the organisation successfully brought competitive relays to school level athletics and attracted some of the biggest names in the sport to KwaZulu-Natal.

According to Sello Mokoena, KwaZulu-Natal Athletics’ president, getting ASA back on track was just the first step in a long line of efforts to help revive the sport in SA and the world.

The new-found stability could also help secure a bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban.

“In 2012, a new board came in at KZN Athletics and the sport was in a lull, it was just business as usual. We were not doing well at development and not producing new talented youngsters,” Mokoena said.

To counter this, a plan was drawn up that would identify upcoming athletes in the U19 age group and develop them looking towards the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

“The Department of Sport and Recreation gave us their support and not long after we attracted the Comrades Marathon Association who have come on board to promote relays in schools,” he said.

The Comrades KZNA Relay Challenge saw a number of schools in the province battle it out on the King’s Park track in September.

Mokoena believes the relays were a step in the right direction to develop the sport at grass root levels.

“But we realised we needed to take it a notch higher if we are really going to drive the sport forward and that is when the Global Athletics Conference [GAC] came to mind,” he said.

Mokoena said many other countries were grappling with similar problems, citing declining spectator numbers and lack of sponsorships as major hurdles.

“We wanted to brand it as a global conference and it was a no-brainer that we needed top panellists who have excelled in the past as well as guys who are currently at the top levels — guys like Dennis Kimetto and Wilson Kipsang.”

The GAC featured the likes of former Olympic medallist sprinter and NBC analyst Ato Boldon, former Olympic pentathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Kenya marathon runners Kimetto (current world record holder) and Kipsang to name but a few.

“It was important to get stakeholder support; we wanted to get the city [Durban], province and private sector here – addressing those who are not currently involved in the sport to tell them why they need to join hands with athletics.”

Panellists debated numerous topics from sponsorship, marketing and media involvement, performance, post-career planning to women in sport.

Having successfully hosted the GAC with full support from the IAAF, Mokoena said the plan is to keep the event in Durban until 2022 — in line with the city’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games.

Mokoena insists that Durban already has the infrastructure to host the games and envisions athletes using the King’s Park track as a practice area while a track would be laid inside Moses Mabhida Stadium for the competition.

“Among our reasoning for hosting the Commonwealth Games here is that they have never been hosted in Africa, but most important is our capability to host a successful tournament,” said Mokoena.

Durban and Edmonton in Canada are the final two cities bidding for the Games. The hosts are set to be announced next year.

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