Ockert de Villiers.

Athletics South Africa’s selection policies over the last two years have been nothing short of disastrous.

The federation stuffed it up ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the 2017 IAAF World Championships, and now this year’s Commonwealth Games.

At least they are consistent, and we should know better than to expect better from them.

In any other world, it would be bizarre that South Africa would select a larger swimming team than a track-and-field one – especially considering the current strength of South African athletics and the respect it enjoys around the globe.

Yes, ASA made an attempt to enter a larger team, but they were met with resistance from the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), whose prerogative it is to deliver teams at multi-sports events.

Rather optimistically, it submitted a team that did not follow its own ‘criteria’.

The use of the word ‘criteria’ is rather generous as athletes were in the dark about what they needed to do to qualify for selection for a large part of the process.

There were murmurs last year that athletes had to rank among the top-10 in the Commonwealth while foolishly giving them a qualifying window between August 1 and December 31, 2017.

That window period was bang in the middle of the athletes’ off-season, which discounted their performances during the actual season.

Sascoc was limited by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), with each nation only allowed to send 99 individual athletes.

This resulted in only 13 athletes in total earning selection for the Games, although 24 made the initial list.

Eleven athletes were chopped because they were ranked outside the top-10 in the Commonwealth. Playing by the rules, it is only fair that those that met the ‘standard’ were included in the team.

Not all animals are equal, and Swimming SA (SSA) seemed to have struck a sweet deal with the Olympic body, with 23 swimmers making the team.

Only a few of the swimmers included in the team rank inside the top-10 in the Commonwealth Games line-up in their respective events.

SSA have taken a long-term view by selecting some promising youngsters to expose them to the rigours and stresses of competing at a major multi-sport event.

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It is a clever strategy which will hopefully pay off as the sport is in dire need of finding swimmers to replace Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh once they hang up their swimsuits.

But this will be of little comfort for athletes that believe they should have earned their places at the quadrennial showpiece.

So 400m hurdler Cornel Fredericks and jumping legend Khotso Mokoena will not have a chance of defending their titles from four years ago.

The fact of the matter is that they did not meet the qualifying standards which ASA apparently agreed upon with Sascoc.

The athletes are once again disadvantaged because their federation failed to properly state the case for the inclusion of their biggest commodity.

While they will argue that they did submit an extended track-and-field squad, they did not do the athletes and themselves any favours with the silly window period.

We’ve been here before, and no matter how many times ASA hit their head against the wall, they don’t seem to learn from it. As Donald Trump would say: Sad!


Saturday Star