‘Moscow was bad’

2013-08-25 10:00

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Athletics officials say team members were not experienced at the international level.

There are mixed reactions as to whether the ongoing infighting in athletics had any bearing on Team SA delivering only one medal from the recently concluded International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Moscow.

“Things are not as bad as people think. Athletes still want to perform despite what is happening in the boardroom,” said veteran marathoner Hendrick Ramaala, who is the vice-president of Athletics SA (ASA).

He added: “I thought the politics would have a negative impact but it didn’t, if the positive atmosphere we had at the camp in Moscow is anything to go by. The infighting is another thing, but we didn’t fail.”

Ramaala conceded that he was personally affected by virtue of being involved in the turmoil sparked by the impeachment of ASA president James Evans in March, and the subsequent fallout between the two and some board members.

“Personally, I was announced very late for the team but I trained well in that short time.”

Ramaala finished 47th out of a field of 51 that ran the marathon last Saturday.

“Half the team was under the age of 25 and new at the senior international level. Remember, we didn’t take a full team because of injuries to some of our experienced athletes such as Simon Magakwe (sprinter), Rene Kalmer (marathon), Lehann Fourie (110m hurdles) and Andre Olivier (800m).”

Evans said there was a sense of harmony building in the sport.

“There is peace among athletics people. We are trying to rebuild the sport,” he said.

The team’s only medallist, Johan Cronje, said: “All in all it was a bad championship for the team but there were some positives in the form of youngsters who came through.

“Personally, I don’t think athletes were affected by the politics. The only shock was when the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) suspended ASA.”

He added: “In my view, too many people who are less passionate about the sport are in positions of power. Young athletes need the support.”

Other athletes who competed in Moscow were reluctant to share their views. University athletics coach Glen Bentley, the team’s co-manager in Moscow, said: “Although some athletes didn’t perform as expected on the day, a number of them did exceptionally well.

“If one looks at the stats, 12 athletes were under the age of 23. Most of them competed at the Universiade (World Student Games) in Kazan, Russia, last month and won medals.

“Proper planning by coaches and managers needs to be adjusted to accommodate athletes better. From speaking to Evans and Ramaala, I’m glad they have made peace and started to work together.”

But athletics coach Eugene Thipe said: “I think there is no bond in the athletics family. We need to be motivated as athletes and officials. For example, Anaso Jabodwana is based in the US and is definitely not affected by the confusion we are faced with at home.”

ASA is on their own after Sascoc suspended them on the basis that their members ignored sanctions placed on its board.

Sascoc has since decided that ASA athletes will not be included in future Team SA squads for the Commonwealth Youth Games, Commonwealth Games, Anoca Youth Games, Zone VI Games, All Africa Games, Olympic Youth Games and the Olympic Games.

But Sascoc made a U-turn this week and said they will now provide funding and scientific support for ASA athletes through their Operation Excellence programme.

We asked two athletics experts if the infighting had any impact on TeamSA’s performance at the recent IAAF World Championships


Danie Cornelius

I don’t think the infighting had any influence on the performance of the team at the IAAF World Champion-ships. Athletes did not allow boardroom politics to affect them.

Most went to Europe in the midst of the infighting and still participated.

Many of them – like LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles), Orazio Cremona (shot put) and Johan Cronje (1?500m) – set their personal best times and qualified.

The team was announced before the IAAF cutoff date and they had ample time to prepare.

Young athletes that participated at Moscow were Cremona (23); Akani Simbine, who is 20 (100m); Anaso Jobodwana (21), 100m and 200m; Zarck Visser, aged 24 (long jump); Anneri Erbesohn (24), 400m hurdles; Victor Hogan, aged 24 (discus throw); PC Beneke, who is 23 (400m hurdles); Justine Palframan, aged 20 (200m); Wayde van Niekerk is 21 (400m); and Lynique Prinsloo is aged 21 (long jump). They are all great prospects. Andre Olivier (800m) had to withdraw due to injury, but he is still only 24.

There is a good foundation for the 2016 Olympic Games. AthleticsSA should look at ways to support these athletes.

Provinces and clubs should also start supporting athletes by exposing them to more high-level competition. Coaches must plan properly for athletes to peak at the right time. I’m excited about the future. »?Cornelius is University of Pretoria athletics manager and AthleticsSA annual statistician Dr RossTucker

If anyone honestly believes that maladministration in sport has no effect on athletic performances, they need to be screened out of the sport.

The whole purpose of sports managers and administrators is to provide the support needed for athletes to win medals. They are accountable. If we won five medals, would those administrators spend money on a nice function to celebrate helping South African athletics

to excel? Of course they would.

Yet, when we do poorly, it’s not a factor? People can’t have it both ways – either they have influence or they don’t. If they don’t, then what are they doing there anyway, other than being paid to fight each other?

It’s important to note that it is not what happened last year or this year that affected South Africa’sSA 2013 medal count, but rather what happened 10?years ago that is to blame. A decade ago, when South Africa’s best junior athletes were

15 to 18 years old, that’s when the crucial support – coaching, science, medicine, competition and management – was needed. That’s when the system failed.

In 10 years’ time, at the 2023 World Championships, we will once again be looking to our athletes to win medals. How do we create champions when we have no intellectual investment in our future athletes? We can’t.

Maladministration of sport going back to the time of former AthleticsSA (ASA) president Leonard Chuene and former ASA chief executive Banele Sindane is

to blame for our performances today.

»?Tucker is a sports scientist at the University of Cape Town and the Sports Science Institute of SA

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