African Championships: Cash-strapped ASA races against the clock

Athletics South Africa’s (ASA’s) selection committee has been asked to reassess the final team for the African Championships, less than two weeks before the continental event, after the country’s top middle-distance runners were left in the dark due to financial constraints.

Aleck Skhosana, the federation’s president, said on Monday the ASA board was in communication with the selectors to find a solution, with national 1 500m record holder Johan Cronje, the only South African medallist at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, and 800m star Andre Olivier, omitted from the final list of around 35 athletes. 

“Cronje and Olivier have been performing well in the Diamond League series, so we wanted to know why they weren’t selected,” Skhosana said. “The final decision lies with the board, but we want the selectors, who are the experts, to make the decisions, so we’re working with them to be able to give them the green light.” 

While the team list had been distributed to provincial members, Skhosana said the selection process was ongoing, and the final sheet would not be released to the media until the federation was satisfied the best crop of athletes had been selected. 

Financially crippled organisation
Around 60 athletes were included in the provisional team, and though accommodation costs would be covered by the local organising committee, the financially crippled ASA faced a R2-million bill for travel costs of team members and management. 

Selection co-ordinator Hezekiel Sepeng, who did not form part of the committee, said ASA had done everything it could to send the full squad of athletes who achieved the qualifying criteria, but it had been forced to cut the team by nearly 50%. Sepeng, the former Olympic 800m silver medallist, confirmed no middle-distance runners had been included in the squad. “The president of ASA tried all avenues to get funding but they were forced to reduce the size of the team,” he said. 

Skhosana hoped the team for the continental championships, to be held in Marrakech from August 10 to 14, would be cleared and released by Monday evening. – Sapa

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