ASA, Sascoc spark concern

2012-05-12 19:17

Coaches and athletes critical of the qualification system and

consultation processes in lead-up to Olympics.

Athletics SA (ASA) and Sascoc’s stringent Olympic Games qualifying criteria have stirred up mixed reactions from coaches and athletes.

Some are critical of the qualification system that requires athletes to qualify twice.

There are also claims of poor consultation processes between ASA, and coaches and athletes before the policy was signed.

But Sascoc has refused to budge. President Gideon Sam said “qualifying the hard way is the only way to be rewarded”.

“We cannot back off because people are raising their voices.”

Sam said this was in line with the Olympic governing body’s target of 12 medals at the quadrennial event.

His ASA counterpart, James Evans, also hit back, saying there was communication between ASA and the 17 athletics provinces prior to the athletics body agreeing to Sascoc’s Olympic selection and qualification policy.

“Why do people wait until so late when the idea was put up a long time ago?” Evans asked.

Sascoc was due to host the presidents’ council meeting this weekend, where the selection criteria for the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016 would headline the agenda.

Some of the coaches and athletes who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said the sports bodies must be mindful of promising athletes.

“Athletes such as Simon Magakwe, Wenda Theron, Thuso Mpuang and Roscoe Engel face potential fatigue from so many races leading up to the games,” said a coach, who asked not to be named.

The aforementioned names featured in almost all the major Yellow Pages competitions in the recently concluded season.

South African 400m hurdles champion Theron and 100m specialist Engel ran in all the seven major events, while fellow sprinters Mpuang and Magakwe were almost always present.

Some of the events, such as the sprints, were contested over three rounds in two days.

The quartet represented the country in the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

“And now that some athletes have one (Olympic) qualifier and some don’t, they must still go and run in Europe and possibly the African Championships (in July) to try to qualify. It is probably just our country where athletes must qualify twice,” said one athlete.

These concerns arrive 75 days before the start of the Games in London.

Theron’s coach, Hennie Kotze, an international 400m hurdles mentor, said: “We were hoping for a qualification earlier, but that didn’t happen. Wenda ran many races last year before the world champs and still achieved a personal best during the competition in Daegu.”

Renowned sprint coach Eugene Thipe of Athletics Royal Bafokeng said: “Maybe the qualifying should not have specified when and where. Our plan was not to run in many races this year.”

Confusion also reigned at the last meeting of the season, the SA Open Championships, about whether the two-day event in Pretoria last weekend was an international competition after 18 Africans nations took part.

In their signed agreement in May last year, Sascoc and ASA stated that track and field athletes must reach Olympic A standard twice in their events.

The agreement further spelt out that one of those events must be “international”.

Magakwe and sprinter Tsholofelo Thipe achieved A-standard times in the events, in which, if the meet conformed to international status, they could have qualified, having already fulfilled the criterion once.

Evans said ASA was still going to engage Sascoc on the status of the SA Open, which was blighted by a poor turnout on the track on the final day last Saturday.

So far, six track and field athletes, notably those who competed at the world championships last year, have booked their tickets to London, whereas seven have achieved their first qualifying marks.

The deadline for athletics qualifiers is June 30.

The Olympic athletics programme runs from August 3 to 12.

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