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After helping Team SA secure a spot at the London Games, African weightlifting champion Otsile Greg Shushu claims he has been deserted by his federation and Sascoc, and he blames them for killing his Olympic dream.
Shushu, 31, was part of the SA weightlifting contingent that earned a single lifter’s spot for London, after a successful trip to the continental championships in Kenya earlier this year.
Shushu earned three of the four medals for the SA men’s team, winning two golds and one bronze. It was this that finalised a place for Team SA in London.
When the Olympic squad was announced, however, the lifter’s spot went to Jean Greeff, who had only taken a single bronze in Kenya.
According to Shushu, he was contacted a few days prior to the squad announcement by the Weightlifting Federation of South Africa (WFSA) and told he was no longer eligible to be chosen, despite his recent performances.
“The federation (WFSA) only told me six days before the team selection I was not going,” said Shushu. He was told he did not meet Sascoc’s selection criteria and that he was too old.
“The reason (for not being selected) was my age. If that was the case, why did they let me go to the African Champs? I have spent my own money, close to R 60000, in preparing for the games. I have not received a single cent from Sascoc or the federation,” said Shushu.
He feels he was only told days prior to selection that he was not eligible because both the federation and Sascoc wanted to use him to secure the team spot for London.
“The national federation used me to earn the team a spot so Jean can go (to the Olympics). I wouldn’t have gone to the African Champs if they told me I can’t go (to the Olympics). My weightlifting life would have been over.”
Tumelo Pedi, the secretary general for the Gauteng Weightlifting Association, which is Shushu’s provincial body, also laments the decision by WFSA and Sascoc to exclude Shushu.
“Greg Shushu has 14 years experience in weightlifting, he is African champion and he is the man who made Team SA qualify,” said Pedi.
Sascoc and the national team coach have said that a continental qualification for any athlete, as with Shushu, will only be considered if they are a prospect for Brazil 2016. Sending them to London would be to gain experience.
Aveenash Pandoo, the national coach for weightlifting, said that, in line with Sascoc’s requirements, the focus for an athlete should be the country’s success, not their own.
“We have to work within the structures of the Olympic body. The sport and the country comes first, not the individual,” said Pandoo. When asked if Team SA would have qualified for a spot in London without Shushu, he said he “couldn’t say”.
Referring to Greef’s inclusion ahead of Shushu, Pandoo said, “Jean has been coming through the junior ranks and is a good prospect.”
Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy said that the selection policy is clear. “The policy has been on our website for over a year. Weightlifting SA would have known that Greg would not have been eligible had they submitted his name,” stating that WFSA were responsible for informing Shushu of his eligibility for Olympic selection.
Kevin du Plooy, Weightlifting Federation of SA president, said he wished to “reserve comment on the matter”.