South Africa's Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games gold medalist, Wayde van Niekerk.
South Africa's Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games gold medalist, Wayde van Niekerk.

SA athletes to foreit national champs for bigger stakes

By Ockert De Villiers Time of article published Nov 24, 2016

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Johannesburg - If everything goes to plan South Africa’s top sprinters including world 400m record holder Wayde van Niekerk will not be racing at the SA Senior track and field championships but instead at the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas in April.

The proposed dates for the national championships in Stellenbosch will clash with the relay showpiece where Athletics SA (ASA) hopes a full complement of four teams would be representing the country.

South Africa failed to send teams to the first two editions of the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas in 2014 and 2015 but Stander said ASA would not make the same mistake next year.

Next year’s national championships and the world relays will overlap which meant athletes that made the team for the Bahamas would not feature in Stellenbosch but would instead be racing in the Caribbean.

“Early in March we will be hosting a few meetings with relays where our athletes would be able to qualify and once they are selected they are withdrawn from the senior championships,” said Stander.

“Protocol determines that a national competition is considered subservient to an international event so that the athlete is automatically withdrawn from the South African championships.”

South Africa has emerged as a potential relay power with the number of top sprinters that have made their appearance over the last year or so.

The country can possibly field a men’s 4x100m relay team with three sub-10 second runners if Van Niekerk, national record holder Akani Simbine, and Henricho Bruintjies while world 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana is close to breaking the barrier.

South Africa would also be able to assemble a decent women’s 4x100m team spearheaded by joint-record holder Carina Horn and rising star Alyssa Conley.

A women’s 4x400m relay team lead by Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya and included Jeanelle Griesel, Wenda Nel, and Justine Palframan proved their potential when they won the African Athletics Championships gold in a new national record time of 3:28.49 in June.

“If everything goes well, we should be able to enter four teams – the 4x400m and 4x100m for both men and women – and if we do things right we would be able to give them two or three meetings to prepare,” Stander said.

“Since we’ve returned to international athletics the South African Championships has catered largely for the upcoming athletes and not for the elite athletes who aim for the World Championships.”

Independent Media

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