Athletics stars snub Universiade

14 July 2017 - 07:53 By DAVID ISAACSON
South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk. File photo.
South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk. File photo.

Olympic champions Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya were yesterday provisionally omitted from South Africa's World Student Games team, with the University Sport SA president saying she was disappointed in them.

"As of yesterday Wayde, Caster and Akani Simbine had not confirmed their participation," Ilhaam Groenewald said at the announcement of the team in Pretoria. "I'm very disappointed."

She said there was still time to add them to the roster of about 130 competitors across 10 codes who would represent the country in Taipei, Taiwan, from August 19-30.

Groenewald said the trio had qualified at the university championships earlier in the year, adding that their presence would lift the team into the top 10 of the medals table at the Games, also known as the Universiade.

"The only gold medal [Van Niekerk] doesn't have is a Universiade gold.

"We really hope they change their minds," said Groenewald, who pointed out that many past stars had competed at this biennial showpiece, including Penny Heyns in 1997, the reigning Olympic 100m and 200m breaststroke champion at the time.

With her that year was Marius Corbett, who had just won the men's world javelin crown.

Other stars who have competed include Hezekiel Sepeng, Sunette Viljoen, Ryk Neethling, Llewellyn Herbert and Van Niekerk, who took a bronze in the 4x400m relay in 2013.

Van Niekerk, Semenya and Simbine are competing at the world championships starting in London August 4, with Van Niekerk and Simbine hoping to finish on August10 and Semenya three days later. The World Student Games athletics starts on August 23.

Ruswahl Samaai, who participated at the Rio Games, will take part in London and Taipei games.

Other Olympians going to Taipei are Rynardt van Rensburg, Justine Palframan, Dominique Scott, Lynique Prinsloo and Anel Oosthuizen. Palframan, the Games' 400m defending champion, was named flag-bearer.

In the absence of Simbine, Thando Roto will attempt to secure South Africa's third straight 100m crown. Simbine won it two years ago, while Anaso Jobodwana lifted it in 2013 as he ran a rare 100m-200m double.

With 44 members, the athletics contingent is the largest. The men's and women's football teams numbering 40.