By Mark Etheridge
The troubled code of track and field will hopefully take a step in the right direction at this weekend’s Athletics South Africa’s coaching symposium in Bloemfontein.
Ever since being suspended in November last year after the Caster Semenya gender saga, the embattled federation has battled to stay out of the news, often for the wrong reasons.
SASCOC board member Ray Mali took over as interim administrator and a nine-member interim board was appointed to oversee the daily running of the sport.
Sentiments were then expressed that the interim board didn’t entirely have the sport’s best interests at heart as athletes were not qualified on administration matters and vice versa.
Veteran Boland administrator Richard Stander took over the position of Assistant Administrator: Athletes Affairs and has often come under fire for among other things, the introduction of a window period where athletes had to prove their form ahead of the African Championships in Nairobi, Kenya and what is seen by some as an authoritarian approach, notably after the awarding of prizes to the Yellow Pages Series winners.
There was also an outcry over the selecting of the team for the IAAF world junior championships in Moncton, Canada.
The team returned home with two medals (Luvo Manyonga’s gold in the long jump and Tazmin Brits’ bronze in the javelin). That was one less medal than the 2008 championships in Poland.
This weekend’s symposium will see more than 320 of the country’s coaches and officials thrash things out at the Eunice High School as ASA look ahead to the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea and still further down the road to the 2012 Olympics in London.
ÔÇ£This weekend’s coaches symposium will be the platform where coaches can voices their opinions on selection criteria matters in a bid to find a workable solution which will allow for our athletes to be best prepared for next year’s world championships and the next Olympics,ÔÇØ said Stander.
As far as the African championships were concerned, South Africa failed to top the medals table for the first time in a decade, in fact slipping to third behind Kenya and Nigeria. Stander’s take on the championships is as follows: ÔÇ£While ASA’s focus is on delivering athletes that can produce medal-winning performances at next year’s IAAF World Championships and at the 2012 Olympics, the African Championship event was a stepping stone towards reaching this objective. In fact, we set a target of winning 14 medals in Nairobi and returned with 19, so we are pleased with the results.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£We believe that ASA is in the process of raising the bar in a direction back to where the sport was on the international scene 10 years ago, whereby we are able to occupy a position among the top 10 nations in the world.ÔÇØ
His remarks though, made in an ASA release on Tuesday differ from those of joint South African 400m recordholder Arnaud Malherbe who said in an internet blog this week that had a different team been chosen South Africa could have picked up as many as 13 more medals than the 19 that they brought home.
Numerous comments on SASCOC’s Road to London website have pointed out selection inconsistencies and omissions at both the World Junior Championships and African Championships.
The weekend seminar is the ideal voice for coaches and officials to have their say and, like Stander says, get South Africa back to where the sport was 10 years ago.