JOHANNESBURG – South African athletes with IAAF World Championships aspirations will be required to race all the rounds in their respective events at the senior national championships in 2019.
Athletics SA (ASA) this weekend informed the country’s elite athletes of its plans to ensure the championships are the premier event on the track and field calendar.
Last year’s championships were highlighted by an athlete-driven campaign to #FillUpPotch but the attention dropped off again in 2018.
In ASA’s criteria for this cycle leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, it has required athletes to race at the national championships to be considered for selection at a major international event.
“The ASA championships will be compulsory for all athletes who would like to be selected in any ASA team for international championships,” according to the selection criteria.
“Exceptions will only be made for medical/injury or family compassionate reasons, communicated to the ASA office prior to the start of the SA championships.”
Werner Prinsloo, who coaches SA 100m record holder Akani Simbine, said the athletes would embrace the caveat but ASA need to ensure the championships was a world-class event.
“If you go through the heats to the final without withdrawing and we say it is fine, we will tell the athletes to comply with this but then they have to make it worth it for the athletes to compete,” Prinsloo said.
“Give them the television exposure, give them incentives and market the event to draw spectators. Then the athletes will perform which is what the Grand Prix did.”
Retired South African one-lap hurdler LJ van Zyl, who has been co-opted onto the ASA athletes’ commission, said he was excited about the federations’ plans to promote the sport."You want the SA championships to be a prestige event."
ASA president Aleck Skhosana said the federation had made a point of meeting with all the stakeholders in the sport to ensure they get to voice their opinions on the state of the athletics in the country.
“It’s been a great weekend for the athletics family where we met with athletes, coaches and the athletes’ representatives over two days to listen and plan together for the 2019 season and beyond,” Skhosana said.
“The days of victimisation of individuals for voicing their opinions are gone. To be able to focus and reap short- and long-term rewards in athletics, we need such openness and robust discussions with all our stakeholders.
“We need to share information, take questions and provide clarity in order to rebuild trust and encourage performance. We don’t always have to agree but we need this healthy honesty towards each other.”