The announcement of the South African team to the IAAF World Championships in London was supposed to be a celebration of the country’s rise in global track and field.

South Africa will be going into the championships with the hopes of its best possible medal haul since the country’s return to international sport.

A team that includes a defending world champion, an Olympic gold medallist, and the best long-jumper the world has seen in almost a decade should have inches of column spaces dedicated to its potential.

Enter Athletics South Africa stage right to grace us with its idiotic selection policies.

In its infinite wisdom ASA has decided to set a tougher qualifying standard to that of the world governing body, the IAAF. This resulted in 13 deserving athletes that have met the IAAF standards being omitted from the team.

Defending its strict qualifying standards ASA president Aleck Skhosana claims it will lead to improved results on a global stage.

The oft-used line that athletes that do not make it past the preliminary rounds are an embarrassment to the country is ridiculous. The IAAF do not suck the standards out their thumbs and athletes that make the cut line up as some of the best in the world.

ASA should tell Akani Simbine and Wayde van Niekerk of 2013 they were embarrassments to the country when they could not move past their heats at the Moscow World Championships.

Van Niekerk was knocked out of the heats of the 400m with a time of 46.37 while Simbine would finish seventh in his 100m preliminary race with a time of 10.38.

Two years later Van Niekerk would become South Africa’s most celebrated athlete, winning the world title in Beijing before winning the Olympic gold medal in a world record-breaking time in Rio de Janeiro.

Simbine has since emerged as one of the world’s fastest men racing in the Olympic 100m final next to Usain Bolt.

At the same championships in 2013, Johan Cronjé won the bronze medal in the 1 500m, one of the blue-riband events in team athletics. Cronjé’s success was the result of years of hard work and nurturing.

Although Cronjé had a good world championship debut in 2005 in Helsinki where he made it past the heats before crashing out of the semi-finals.

He would miss the world championships in 2007 and 2011, drop out in the heats in 2009, before finally tasting success in 2013.

Imagine we told Cronjé he was not good enough to make the team, that he should stay home because we do not promote mediocrity. South Africa would have come home empty-handed, while we would have been robbed of one of the greatest medals in our history.

The valuable experience of tasting the defeat at a major championships has undoubtedly spurred Cronjé, Simbine, and Van Niekerk on to greater things.

There are more examples of athletes that have failed on their first attempt but got back on the horse to give South Africans some of the best stories of perseverance.

ASA’s attempt to promote excellence will have the opposite effect as they snuff out the dreams of our athletes.

Some Olympic athletes that did not make the ASA cut despite meeting the IAAF standard are rumoured to consider retirement.

Denying the athletes their places means ASA is also robbing South Africa of potential Cronjés, Simbines and Van Niekerks.


Saturday Star

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