Big names in athletics talk to media in Durbs

2014-11-14 00:00

SOME of the biggest names in the athletics world have arrived in Durban ahead of the inaugural Global Athletics Conference.

The conference, which is being hosted at the Sibaya Casino today and tomorrow, features a panel of highly regarded athletics greats who will discuss the future of the sport.

At a small press conference yesterday, members of the media picked the brains of Dennis Kimetto, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Ato Boldon ahead of the main conference.

It’s not every day that such accomplished sportspeople get a chance to share their insights and personal stories, and all three have notched up huge milestones on tracks and roads around the globe.

Kenyan runner Kimetto recently broke the Marathon world record at the Berlin Marathon, while Boldon was a four-time Olympic medallist for Trinidad. American heptathlete and long-jumper Joyner-Kersee won three gold, one silver and two bronze medals over four Olympic games.

“The business of sport needs honest conversations. We need to ask if athletics is attractive and take a look at where we have moved to. Most countries are underdeveloped in terms of athletics,” Boldon said.

He suggested that the appeal of athletics needs to be bolstered, as many youngsters are influenced by what they see on television and in social media.

“A good example is in Jamaica. Because of athletes like Usain Bolt, young sportsmen aren’t being directed to other sports. The aspirations are simple because they see these stars on TV,” he said.

Joyner-Kersee echoed those sentiments.

“Where I come from, we use sport to teach young people life skills, but the problem is a lack of funding at grass-root levels. Social media has also changed things; what young people see is what they want,” she said.

Kimetto’s manager Marieke van de Veen’s made it clear that athletics has given her runners a chance to change their lives and those around them.

“They want to be the best in their sport, but also want to help younger athletes. It’s not only about running though, they do a lot to help their families and communities,” she said.

Heading into the GAC today, Boldon believes the athletics community needs to be more accepting of change if growth is to be achieved.

“There is a bit of a fight against the old guard. If you look at the recent World Relays in the Bahamas, there was quite a bit of opposition but people actually loved it — it was like the T20 of athletics.

“Things like mixed relays need to be considered as well. We need to take chances to update and upgrade. Our sport is exactly the same it was 100 years ago,” Boldon said.

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