Sam: We need to get out of dip

Gideon Sam (Gallo Images0
Gideon Sam (Gallo Images0

Johannesburg – South African sport is in dire straits financially and SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) president Gideon Sam says it is something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

"We are trying our best to support as many athletes as we can but when we look at the figures we should be concerned as South Africans," Sam told media at Olympic House in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"I do know that in sport there is a high and a dip but we have to get out of the dip now, we should not be going backwards."

SASCOC presented the latest figures of the Operation Excellence (OPEX) programme which identifies and supports prospective Olympic and Paralympic medallists by means of financial assistance, and through the payment of medical and training expenses.

"The concern we have is how our national federations are battling financially, most of them when it comes to high performance are wholly dependent on what Operation Excellence can do for them," Sam said.

"In our design of the programme it was mainly to augment what the federations are doing but most of the federation outside of the top three - cricket, soccer and rugby - are knocking on our doors."

South African rowing was the biggest recipient with 11 athletes of the 38 athletes on the OPEX programme benefiting from the funding model thanks to excellent performances over the last year.

Olympic lightweight fours gold medallists James Thompson, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu were among the rowers benefiting from the funding programme.

Swimming, which has traditionally produced medals for South Africa at the Games, only had two athletes supported on the OPEX programme.

Olympic gold medallists Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh made it onto the programme while Sebastien Rousseau and Myles Brown were on the National Academy Support programme.

SASCOC’s high performance manager Ezera Tshabangu revealed that just over R7.8 million had been approved on the Olympics programme for a six-month period from April 1 to September 30 with R4.5 million being allocated to the Paralympic programme.

The requests for funding from athletes for this financial year amounted to approximately R28.6 million which excluded requests for equipment and specialised medical support.

While athletics has experienced a surge over the past few months with records falling all over the place only eight athletes from this code were currently on OPEX.

Sam explained these athletes could get onto the programme for the next cycle when the contracts will be reviewed at the end of September after most of the World Championships had been completed.

The athletes receiving support from SASCOC are Anaso Jobodwana (200m), Cornel Fredericks (400m hurdles), Khotso Mokoena (triple jump/ long jump), Sunette Viljoen (javelin throw), Wayde van Niekerk (400m) and Zarck Visser (long jump).

A special fund to the tune of R3 million has been set aside for specialised medical support. This is mainly for surgery and rehabilitation for athletes who are without medical aid.

Olympic canoeing bronze medallist Brigitte Hartley is the other London Olympics medalist that was on the programme, while Caster Semenya has been unable to get onto Opex due to ongoing injury and below par performances.

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