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Ruben must keep focus

By Mark Etheridge

Ace steeplechaser Ruben Ramolefi’s coach has urged him to concentrate on his track race in Doha, Qatar on Friday night and not worry about any controversy back at home.

This after growing dispute over the awarding of the Yellow Pages Athlete of the Series prize to Ramolefi earlier this week.

The Beijing 2008 finalist picked up R100,000 for the main award but various sources have claimed discrepancies in the system, with some saying the awards should rightfully have gone to 400 metre hurdler Cornel Fredericks and 400m athlete Estie Wittstock rather than Ramolefi and middle-distance ace Lebogang Phalula.

“I received a text message from Ruben last night saying he believes there’s a lot of controversy,” said Ramolefi’s coach Hans Saestad on Thursday.

“I told him that he mustn’t worry about it now. He’s out of the country and there’s nothing he can do about it now, rather wait until he’s back in the country.

“I actually only knew he had won when he phoned me before he left for Doha after the awards. I can imagine it must be quite difficult for him to deal with because working as he does, at the ASA offices as part of the interim board, he will hear a lot of the controversy around the subject.”

Saestad said the volatile nature of athletics in the country at present was not providing a healthy climate.

“The way I see it is that there are so many people who have their eyes on the presidency that there’s a lot of back-stabbing going on an manipulating for position and that can’t be healthy for the athletes.”

Athletics South Africa’s Richard Stander, commenting on the discrepancies said: “ASA have nothing to hide. If there are queries, people know where the ASA office is. To respond to the remarks of nameless people is pointless.”

Back to something that Saestad can comment with more than a little authority is how his charge will fare in the 3,000m steeplechase event at Friday night’s opening Diamond League meeting.

“This is the same meeting he opened his international programme with last year and the aim will be to run around 8min 20sec or maybe just under. This race will be just to get a feeling of where we are in our training phase.

“We haven’t changed much of his programme, just tweaked a bit here and there and I’m happy so far.

“His next meeting will be in Rabat only on June 5 and the first meeting where we’ll be expecting to run sub 8:15 will be in Finland on June 29.”

Ramolefi’s career-best is the 8:11.63 which he ran in Monaco last year.

Ramolefi will be joined in Doha by world 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, 400 metres hurdles star LJ van Zyl and triple jumper Tumelo Thagane.