Wayde van Niekerk and other SA track stars set for Potch meeting
CAPE TOWN - Wayde van Niekerk on a track in Potchefstroom next month? That could be a possibility following yesterday’s announcement of the return of athletics in South Africa.
In a statement on Friday morning, governing body Athletics South Africa announced that “training and controlled competition activity” will resume from November 1 following the Covid-19 lockdown, and it will be reviewed at the end of December.
A maximum of 500 athletes and officials will be allowed at events, including track and field, road running and trail running competitions, but with no spectators.
Many top athletes, such as long jump star Ruswahl Samaai, have complained about the continued delay for athletics to be staged in this country, as well as for athletics to train.
Samaai, Wayde van Niekerk, Akani Simbine, Antonio Alkana and others had to fly to Europe to compete in events over the last few months, as local athletes were not allowed to utilise any facilities in South Africa.
Just last week, Samaai tweeted: “How is it possible that our Athletics stadiums/tracks is still closed when so many sporting codes in our country has resume with their training. Why is one of thee most social distancing sports struggling to get access to training facilities?”
Athletics SA president Aleck Skhosana told IOL Sport that strict protocols will be in place for athletes at official events, which will be mainly provincial meetings between November 1 and December 31.
“We are moving with caution because we don’t know what is coming out of that (returning from Covid-19 lockdown) – let us wait for the first few competitions and see whether our athletes and those who work around our athletes are safer and deliver according to what we want to see,” he said.
“It is not a period for us to be happy. It is still not a full-blown operation, and we are still at level 1, where there are still many precautions and protocols.”
But Athletics Central North West president Jean Verster couldn’t hide his excitement, adding that “it’s about time” that local athletes can train and take part in competitions.
And he is expecting some big names to turn out at the first one in Potchefstroom on November 3.
“We will have six meetings in a row every Tuesday until December 8, as we have so many of our top athletes who want to compete,” Verster told IOL Sport.
“We are not sure which particular event they will compete in, but the one on the third, I’ve already got many athletes from North West, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria who have contacted me and want to take part.
“By the end of next week, we will know for sure who will participate when. I haven’t spoken to Akani (Simbine) yet, but I know Wayde also wants to come. I am not sure yet about Caster Semenya.”
The manager of Simbine, Samaai and Van Niekerk, Peet van Zyl, told IOL Sport that he was glad that local athletes could get back on to the track, but wasn’t sure at this point about whether the top stars will participate.
“Why would they want to run or jump now, when they have just got back from Europe? We never usually run this time of the year,” Van Zyl said.
“But we just found out about the announcement today, so I will discuss with their coaches and see if they want to take part.
“The top guys are back from Europe and are busy with a base training programme, so I don’t know if they would want to race now. It’s maybe more for the youngsters who need to make a plan to race.
“The big goal for the top athletes is to get ready for next season and the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”