JOHANNESBURG – For the first time in five years, South African track and field athletics will have a corporate backer after Liquid Telecom was announced as the title sponsor of the Athletix Grand Prix Series for the next three years.
The series has already breathed new life into local track and field athletics even before the starting gun has been fired.
South African track and field has been without a sponsor since the Yellow Pages Series back in 2012.
Liquid Telecom chief executive Kyle Whitehill remained coy about the exact worth of the sponsorships on Tuesday, saying it was “a lot” for the three-year period.
The fibre telecommunications company last week revealed an R8 million sponsorship of South African sprinting star Akani Simbine until 2020.
“I wasn’t allowed to say how much it was, but it is a lot. It will not affect the prize money, only positively,” Whitehill said. “The money will go towards a combination of prize money, appearance fees, the hosting of the events.”
A total of R1 365 000 in prize incentives will be on offer over the three legs of the series, where the winner in each event will walk away with R20 000, with second and third bagging R10 000 and R5 000 respectively.
Athletics SA (ASA) president Aleck Skhosana said the series would provide South African athletes with the opportunity to show their mettle against some of the best in the world.
“The arrival of Liquid Telecom is important to us, it came at the right time when we have the mushrooming of young athletes,” Skhosana said. “They need a big platform like this to rub shoulders with the best of the best in the world and by doing so aspire to be World champions and Olympic champions.
“We thank Stillwater Sports for the hard work that they have put into securing this partnership, and congratulate them for all work done so far.”
A star-studded line-up will be in action in Roodepoort on Thursday evening, where the men’s 200m event is set to trigger the fireworks.
World 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana and South African junior record-holder Clarence Munyai will be defending the country’s pride when they line up against Botswana’s Isaac Makwala.
Makwala has distinguished himself as one of the finest 200m-400m athletes in recent years.
Last year he ran the fastest 200m-400m double on the same day, posting sub-20 and sub-44 seconds respectively just 75 minutes apart at the Monaco Diamond League meeting.
The daring Motswana will try a similar feat at Ruimsig, where only 30 minutes separates the 400m and the 200m from each other.
World 10 000m silver medalist Joshua Cheptegei will headline the 1 500m, where he will face the South African contingent of Jerry Motsau, Folavio Sehohle, national champion Dumisane Hlaselo and rising star Ryan Mphahlele.
The men’s high jump will see phenomenal World Youth champion Breyton Poole, who boasts a best jump of 2.25m, take on Mpho Links (2.23m) and South African champion Chris Moleya, who has a personal best of 2.25m.