JOHANNESBURG – An attempt to clarify controversial selection decisions for their IAAF World Championships team has instead exposed Athletics South Africa’s (ASA) flawed logic.
A leaked ASA document meant to explain its rationale behind the non-selection of certain athletes that have met the IAAF criteria, but not ASA’s tougher standards, has left the SA body with egg on their face.
ASA have omitted 13 athletes who have met the IAAF standards, while five others were selected despite not meeting ASA’s stringent standards.
The document outlined some of their reasoning where they had made clear mistakes in their thinking, while seemingly showing a clear bias against certain athletes.
Former South African 100m record-holder Henricho Bruintjies, who dipped below the IAAF qualifying time of 10.12 seconds twice this season, was deemed not good enough for selection.
According to the document, Bruintjies – with a season’s best of 10.06 – would need to run 9.99 to make it into the semi-finals at the world championships.
It also states in brackets that the semi-finals comprise the top 16 athletes from the heats, when it is in fact the top 24.
And in fact, at the 2015 Beijing World Championships, Bruintjies made it into the next round with a time of 10.07, while the slowest qualifier clocked 10.24.
It also claimed Bruintjies was not considered for selection as there were three South African athletes ranked higher than him.
This is technically correct, but although Wayde van Niekerk boasts a faster time than Bruintjies, the world 400m record-holder will not be racing the 100m sprint in London, leaving a third 100m spot available to South Africa.
ASA’s reasoning took a farcical turn when it justified the exclusion of the country’s male 400m hurdlers Cornel Fredericks, LJ van Zyl and Constant Pretorius.
It claims youth athlete Sokwakhana Zazini has run faster than the senior athletes over the barriers. While Zazini may have a faster time, he races over lower hurdles, which results in faster times.
Finally, ASA claimed race walkers Marc Mundell, Anel Oosthuizen and Wayne Snyman, as well as distance ace Dominique Scott-Efurd and decathlete Fredriech Pretorius, were unlikely to qualify for the semi-finals.
These athletes have all qualified for straight finals, and will not have to compete in heats at the championships.
Coaches who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the selection criteria were a challenge at the beginning of the year, but ASA adopted them despite “overwhelming opposition”.
“To develop athletes and athletics, you need to give them the exposure they deserve for reaching the qualifying standards,” said one coach.
“If an athlete makes a world champs team based on the IAAF standards, whether it is according to the lists, the times or if they are a defending champion, then he or she must go.”
Another coach said no agreement was reached when the qualifying standards were discussed in a meeting earlier this year.
“A week or two later, ASA said the criteria were accepted at the meeting, but we never voted on it,” the coach claimed.
THANKS to everyone who has shown love & compassion regarding my non-selection for WC. I have appealed & now wait to hear from @AthleticsSA_
While ASA have claimed stricter standards will lead to more medals at international championships, opposing voices believe it could severely hinder growth in the sport.
“The reason why... our athletes are flourishing was due to the policy over the last 10 years that said ‘if you qualify, you will go’,” the coach said.