End spat for sake of athletics

22 August 2013 - 03:00 By David Isaacson

Victor "Hulk" Hogan is a throw-back to the old amateur days of sport.

The 24-year-old, fifth at the recent World Championships, does discus because he loves it.

At 1.99m and weighing 125kg, he might have been perfect for rugby.

Hogan played at Overberg High School, slotting in at lock or eighthman, but that code didn't grab him.

Discus seduced him instead.

But, at some point, life will force Hogan to worry about money.

His performance in Moscow, which earned him $10000, should also get him on to the top tier of Sascoc's Operation Excellence funding programme.

But it won't - at least not now.

Sascoc suspended Athletics South Africa in June, citing poor corporate governance, and as a result all athletes were cut from Opex.

Sascoc may have a compelling case against ASA president James Evans, but how does one support a move that prejudices athletes?

My dream - and I have advocated this for nearly a decade - is to witness a South African Olympic team win 11 or more medals at a single Games. My target is based on South Africa's previous best performances - 10 medals, achieved in 1920 and again in 1952.

I believe South Africans have a great chance of surpassing 10 medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Think about it. Chad le Clos could win up to five individual medals on his own. Then add Cameron van der Burgh, one or two of the rowing crews and canoeist Bridgitte Hartley, and we are potentially on nine gongs.

The rest must come from athletics - South Africa's weakest medal code in London - where only Caster Semenya reached the podium.

While Sascoc have their critics, they have also done some things right, like the financial support they gave to Olympic athletes in the build-up to London 2012 - starting from early 2009.

It was no accident that Team SA won six medals, three of them gold, for their best performance of the post-isolation era.

Not everyone who got funding got an Olympic medal last year, but every medallist there received funding.

Exactly three years from tonight, Rio will stage the Olympic closing ceremony. There are just 11 months to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and soon after that the Youth Olympics, where Le Clos cut his teeth in 2010.

Time is running out.

It's the Sascoc AGM next Saturday, and the ASA suspension should be on the agenda - that is what Sascoc president Gideon Sam has indicated previously.

I believe the suspension should be lifted - whether or not ASA's governance has improved. Surely Sascoc can explore other avenues to get ASA right, or to discipline Evans, or whatever is required.

But there is only one way to prepare athletes for the years ahead - support them.

If the athletes fail in Rio because of this spat, I doubt fans will be consoled by the fact that ASA's governance might get better.

Come on, Sascoc, it's your move.

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