Athletics SA is hobbling, not helping, our sport

25 July 2017 - 07:13
By The Times Editorial
File photo.
Image: EDUARD KORNIYENKO File photo.

What is it about South African sports administrators that they like to cut the number of athletes who represent the country abroad?

The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee has done this under the pretext of sending only world-class competitors to the Track and Field World Championships.

But the move by Athletics SA to slash its world championship team almost by half is nothing less than outrageous.

No fewer than 38 athletes have qualified for the August 4-13 global showpiece in London, according to the qualifying standards set out by track and field's world governing body, the IAAF.

But ASA dreamt up qualifying standards that were even tougher - and which only 18 of those 38 achieved - insisting it wanted to lift the standard of the sport.

How, exactly?

Four 400m hurdlers have qualified on the IAAF standard, but none on the ASA standard which, set at 48.50sec, equated to a world ranking of 11th in 2016.

This discipline has been one of South Africa's strongest in the past two decades, dating back to Llewellyn Herbert, but now we won't field a single male 400m hurdler.

Most of ASA's track standards are tougher for women than men, which is crazy in a country where women's athletics is substantially weaker.

A case in point is the 5000m, where ASA's qualifying standard for men translated into a world ranking of 110 last year.

But in the women's 5000m, Dominique Scott needed to hit a world ranking of 42.

And just when we thought ASA had finally woken up to the potential of a men's 4x100m relay team, it omits Henricho Bruintjies, South Africa's fourth-quickest sprinter.

That'll motivate him.

ASA should realise its job is to help athletes, not hamstring them.