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Brace yourself for excuses after Team SA's poor performances at World Champs

Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa reacts after competing in the men's 400m heats at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field in Eugene

Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa reacts after competing in the men's 400m heats at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA, 17 July 2022. Picture: John G. Mabanglo/EPA

Published Jul 24, 2022

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Johannesburg - There’s surely nothing special about a country that places 31st in a competition involving 65 countries, is there? I know that some will argue the country has done well to occupy the top half of the table. Perhaps so.

But when you consider that prior to the competition, said country’s leader had spoken about a top-10 placing, you begin to understand just how poorly they have performed.

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And the reality is that with a day to go before the competition ends, the 31st placing could well be lost.

Typical of my beloved country South Africa, brace yourself for excuses galore following our wretched showing at the World Championships that end later on Sunday in Eugene, Oregon, in the US.

Without a medal going into the final day of the competition, Team South Africa were literally out in the States merely to add to the numbers.

To think that Athletics South Africa (ASA) president James Moloi had spoken boldly about how the team they assembled was going to bring the country “honour and glory”.

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But surely there was nothing honourable or glorious achieved by the 40-member team in the past week. I saw how some people, including seasoned athletics media – surprisingly – praised the likes of Akani Simbine for his placing fifth in the 100m. Really?

Simbine has been promising to deliver glory for way too long and his failure to win a medal in Eugene was not surprising to those of us who have followed his career. Simbine is a nearly-man at the highest level, period.

Wayde van Niekerk did well to reach the final, but the reality is that the 400m world record holder is nowhere near the great athlete he was prior to that injury he sustained in a silly touch rugby match.

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And he was never really going to challenge for honours in a field teeming with fantastic young talent such as Noah Lyles.

The question we should be asking ourselves as a country is why is it that we fail to perform at such major events.

When he came into power, Moloi spoke as though he had the magic wand to turn our athletics fortunes around. But it is one thing to say all the right things in the chase for positions, and another to deliver once you are there.

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What Moloi needs to understand is that athletes are not just going to perform without being properly groomed and trained and supported by their governing body.

It is about time ASA took a serious look at their development programmes and made a concerted and deliberate effort to groom athletes for great performances at the highest level.

The drama that played itself out prior to the championships, when athletes were stranded in Europe needing US visas, talks to a lack of control by ASA.

That the athletes had gone to training camps in Europe on their own steam, without ASA’s involvement, is indicative of the lack of control over athletes by the governing body.

What Moloi and Co should consider doing is having a huge group of national athletes put together from a fairly young age, and trained by the many athletics legends that are itching to pass on their experience.

Get these young athletes well-trained and fully supported by the federation and set them targets to achieve at local, provincial, national and ultimately major international events.

The reality is that we have talented athletes in this country. The key is to nurture them early on with set goals and proper support.

This tendency to just hope and wish that athletes who meet qualification targets for major events will get to such and perform is simply not going to work.

Position 31 out of 65 is a pathetic return, especially because it comes without a single medal.

@Tshiliboy

IOL Sport

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