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Athletics SA boss' plan nipped in the Budd

Athletics SA president James Moloi. Picture: twitter.com/SocialRunnersSA

Athletics SA president James Moloi. Picture: twitter.com/SocialRunnersSA

Published Apr 24, 2022

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Johannesburg - The irony of Zola Budd pulling out just after the halfway mark of her 5000m masters race at the Athletics South Africa (ASA) National Track and Field Championships at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium on Saturday would not have been lost on the discerning running follower.

Her DNF (did not finish) was somewhat symbolic of what transpired this week when ASA president James Moloi made an announcement concerning the famous athlete, only to retract it a few days later.

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It was pure comedy really, though it was no laughing matter but rather a sad case of a leader’s propensity for shooting his mouth.

In a one-on-one interview with The Top Runner’s Thathe Msimango, Moloi disclosed that ASA would be hosting a series of 5km races in honour of Budd, the athlete who became famous in the ‘80s for setting tracks alight barefoot.

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“I think you are the first journalist to know this,” Moloi told Msimango on the sidelines of the Two Oceans Marathon finish. “Next year we are introducing a 5km series across the country and we are going to name it after Zola Budd.”

The ink on that article had not yet dried when the self same website published an article with Moloi singing a different tune.

“Nothing has been finalised yet. Remember as ASA doesn’t organise these kinds of events. We only organise national championships. So those kinds of 5km races would have to be approved by the provincial bodies in the regions where those races are.”

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A spectacular turnaround.

What could have happened? Why would Moloi, who had excitedly announced he would be honouring Budd just a few days earlier, change his mind?

Did he not know earlier that ASA can’t organise races across the country?

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The reality is that Moloi came under immense pressure from many running legends who called him out for honouring Budd. And somewhat rightly so.

For while Budd did very well in her running career, she left the country to run for Great Britain, a move that the likes of Sam Ramsamy were opposed to.

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For ASA to now honour her, ahead of legendary runners whose running served to inspire the nation during the tough times of apartheid, would have been a smack in the face of the anti-apartheid activists like Ramsamy.

It could well be that Moloi was approached by potential sponsors who want to honour Budd, and in his eagerness to live up to his pre-election manifesto of bringing more money to athletics, he agreed.

He should have known better than to rush to the media to make the announcement. Did he even speak to his board about the series before announcing it? Methinks not, for had he done so they would have made him aware of the fact ASA “doesn’t organise those kinds of events”.

An athlete in his earlier years, Moloi should also surely be aware of the country’s past dynamics to know that honouring the likes of Budd ahead of Matthews Batswadi and Blanche Moila just is not politically correct.

I hear that even the sports ministry were taken aback by Moloi’s announcement and might have called him to order.

He is fairly new in his position as ASA president and Moloi would do well to learn to hold his horses a bit instead of getting excitable and making rushed announcements.

Moloi said in the second article that the plan to honour Budd has been held back until further notice.

No doubt there’s nothing to stop a club from honouring the runner. But that shouldn’t be done by the national association.

I wonder what Moloi thought watching Budd pull out of her race on Saturday.

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