Poorly planned Malawi qualifier cuts SA athletes out of international contests

2010-09-07 00:00

ATHLETICS South Africa and Sascoc (the SA Olympic Committee) must be looking on with concern at the country’s prospects for the Commonwealth Games following performances in this weekend’s Intercontinental Cup in Split, Croatia.

Only javelin throwers Sunette Viljoen and Gerhardus Pienaar offered any hope with their silver medal performances.

Viljoen launched a spear out to 62,21 metres, her best of recent weeks, to finish second behind Russian Maria Abakumova, who set a new championship record of 68,14 m for the European team.

A new championship record of 89,26 m gave Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen victory in the men’s javelin, while Pienaar stretched to a season’s best for his silver medal with 83,17 metres.

For the remaining South Africans it was a series of disappointing performances.

With Sascoc defending their minimal selection of track and field athletes on the basis that they are only taking potential medal winners, there must be as many concerned selectors as there are athletes at this point.

On the international road-running circuit, Tanith Maxwell ran a strong, well-judged race to finish second in Britain’s prestigious Bristol Half-marathon in 1 hour 14 minutes 33 seconds. Bristol-based talent Claire Hallissey took line honours in 1:12:02.

Durban-based athlete Maxwell’s celebrations were short-lived, however, as she learnt from her manager, Rhyn Swanepoel, that after competing in the race ASA have removed her from the squad for the World Half-marathon Championships in China in October.

Although ASA had previously been notified of Maxwell’s plans to run both the Bristol Half-marathon and Berlin Marathon on September 25, they only notified Swanepoel last week that if she failed to run in Malawi as part of the SA team to the Southern Region Championships, she would not be considered for the world team.

“ASA staff handed us forms for the World Half-marathon ... in July ... It seems bizarre that this was left so late,” said Swanepoel.

Ironically, what seems a well-intentioned but poorly thought-out, selection criterion looks set to decimate the team to both the Southern Region and World Half-Marathon champs. The Malawi event, which it seems is now a compulsory qualifier, is on the same weekend as SA Cross Country Championships in Tshwane. A number of the leading men are also leaving to compete in a top UK 10 km race, which will similarly remove them from world consideration.

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