Anaso Jobodwana is doing his all to make the team for the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Photo: EPA

Common sense is not so common when it comes to sport or more specifically athletics in South Africa.

We tend to create hoops for our athletes en route to success which could possibly make them stronger but are ultimately unnecessary.

General conversations around the track provide anecdotal evidence that South Africa’s top athletes do not have an appetite for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

It is not so much that they do not want to represent their country at the quadrennial multi-sport event but a case of indifference thanks to puzzling selection criteria.

Asked whether they are planning on qualifying for the Games they just shrug, hope for the best and carry on with training.

One can easily argue that the Games have lost their lustre, but in this case, the problem should be found at the door of Athletics SA and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.

Instead of giving athletes a clear set of criteria well in advance they were only informed after the window opened what would be expected of them to qualify.

Other nations like England announced their team for the Games a month ago while South African athletes are required to extend performances without a sniff of a pre-season.

Only the athletes who performed at the IAAF World Championships or those that managed to meet the wonky selection criteria for the global showpiece made the preliminary team for the Commonwealth Games.

The Games happen to be at the same time that South Africa’s national championships are scheduled each year. This is supposed to give South Africa somewhat of an advantage. 

But by only opening the qualifying window at the beginning of August, ASA has provided athletes with obstacles instead of giving them boosters.

There is the odd athlete that has made it their mission to qualify for the Games, with the likes of Anaso Jobodwana, Sunette Viljoen and Gena Lofstrand actively attempting to make the squad.

But a month away from the deadline for South African selection, athletes still don’t know exactly what they have to do to make the squad.

There is some sort of qualifying standard, but this means nothing if they are required to rank among the top-10 in the Commonwealth – which seems to be an unwritten requirement.

The ASA chief executive Richard Stander reckons only 100 individual athletes across different codes will be allowed per team.

How are athletes supposed to plan their season if there is no clear set of standards for them to meet?

The confusion adds to the federation’s tendency to set vague and often unrealistic targets for the country’s athletes.

The selection criteria for the 2018 World Under-20 Championships in Finland is another example of ASA stifling development instead of growing the sport.

It seems like South Africa’s junior athletes would have to produce performances that would have seen them reach finals at the previous championships.

In five of the events, the standards would have earned podium finishes at the previous edition two years ago. The intention may be to raise the standards, but the danger is that ASA could discourage talented youngsters from pursuing a track-and-field career.

The sport has proven to be resilient despite stifling policies considering the current crop of world beaters that have made it to the top level without any formal support. There is hope, but wouldn’t it be nice if we all pulled in the same direction?


Saturday Star

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