'Bumbling' athletics bosses set to stay

16 October 2016 - 01:57 By DAVID ISAACSON

Olympic medals will count for little when the powermongers of athletics vote for their federation's new executive on Saturday, some athletes and coaches believe. The incumbent Athletics SA (ASA) executive looks set to survive largely in tact for the next four years until after the Tokyo 2020 Games.In its favour, the board has achieved stability since being elected in 2014, and they've also managed to stay afloat despite a R13-million debt.President Aleck Skhosana and his deputy, Harold Adams, are among three board members standing unopposed in the poll on Saturday.The other seven fighting to retain their spots enjoy far more nominations than their rivals, and these are likely to transform into votes.Among them is Pieter Lourens, chairman of ASA's track and field commission and, for his critics, he is the face behind two high-profile failures pinned on ASA.One was not getting the men's 4x100m relay team to qualify for the Rio Games. The other was not picking Akani Simbine in the 200m.National teams have enjoyed success abroad in this board's tenure, the highlight being the unprecedented four Olympic track and field medals for South Africa at the Rio Games.But they could have landed five, maybe six, had ASA not mismanaged those chances, allege coaches and athletes, who asked not to be named."ASA's problem is they don't communicate with the athletes and more importantly listen to the athletes," said one athlete.Some of the would-be relay sprinters have said they were not approached by ASA until too late in the season."Someone should have been fired for not giving the team the opportunity to qualify, in a reasonable time frame," said the athlete. "ASA left it to [two days] before the cut-off."Lourens dismissed the allegation. "We addressed the issue immediately after the [2015] world championships in Beijing."The big problem was the availability of athletes, but we have something new in mind," added Lourens, whose election rivals include Wayde van Niekerk's stepfather, Steven Swarts.ASA intends to send teams to the World Relays in Bahamas in April next year.The athlete also claimed ASA had failed to ask Simbine about competing in the 200m at the Olympics, where he ended fifth in the 100m, just three-hundredths of a second off the podium.Simbine was South Africa's third-fastest of five 200m qualifiers, which had to be trimmed to a maximum of three. He was omitted while the two slowest runners were chosen.Lourens said the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) was responsible for picking the team."We didn't make the selection," he said. "We sent a long list of athletes' names and performances and if an athlete has ... qualified then obviously Sascoc would select that athlete."We forward the names and they do the selection."Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy at the time said his organisation had merely endorsed the team forwarded by ASA.Skhosana, however, defended the decision not to select Simbine, explaining he had not proved his fitness.He had not done a 200m since an impressive 20.29sec effort in March, having torn a hamstring in April, which kept him out of competition until June.But he did prove form in the 100m, clocking 10.01 a month inside the qualifying deadline."When he recovered he made himself available for the 100m. He never said he's available for the 200m," said Skhosana. "Communication is a two-way process ... The injury helped him to strengthen himself to focus on the 100m."The athlete hopes ASA's communication will improve in future. "The ultimate goal is to see the athletes perform at their best, make finals and win medals. [Then] athletics is the winner.sports@timesmedia.co.za

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.