JOHANNESBURG – The ambiguous qualifying standards for next year’s Commonwealth Games effectively give athletes an unknown target to shoot at.
The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) are yet to announce the official criteria for the respective codes five months out from the quadrennial showpiece.
The country’s track and field athletes still do not know what the qualification window period is and what is exactly expected from them to make the team.
According to Athletics SA CEO Richard Stander, each country has a quota of 100 individual athletes across the different codes.
And Sascoc president Gideon Sam points out that, when team sports are taken into account, a country can have as many as 300 competitors at the Games.
While some codes have a clear idea of what is required to get to the Games others, like athletics, are still in the dark.
Swimmers have known since the beginning of the year that they would have to qualify for the Gold Coast at the trials in Durban in December.
Track and field athletes have only been given a vague idea of what is required from them without a clear opening date of the window period.
It was initially believed the window opened in April but in another circular from ASA, it is said only performances since August 1 would count towards qualifying for the Games.
This was only communicated after the IAAF World Championships in London which ended on August 13 which sets the athletes a target retrospectively. How can you expect athletes to shoot at a moving target?
The athletes who performed well in London have been given a reprieve and only need to prove their fitness in the new year.
The rest of the athletes and their coaches have been given an impossible task of hitting top form with hardly any sort of pre-season base behind them.
They have been given until the end of December to at the very least rank among the top 10 athletes in their respective disciplines in the Commonwealth.
While in most cases their competition from other competitions can work, reaching their peak in April as they have already met the mark earlier in the year.
The Games date of April should have given most South African athletes an advantage as it usually coincides with the annual national championships.
But what should have been a downhill sprint towards the finish has now been complicated with administrators throwing in a few speed bumps.
The problem as always is the lack of communication between the federation, the athletes and the coaches.
From the end of the August to April, athletes have about 30 weeks until the start of the Commonwealth Games.
Traditionally athletes would have an 11-week general period or off-season conditioning programme before moving into approximately 11 weeks of event specific training.
This would leave eight weeks for pre-competition and actual racing ahead of the event at the beginning of April.
Expecting athletes to meet the mark now removes the possibility for them to build an off-season base as they have to go straight into the pre-competition and racing.
Should they qualify they would have to start from scratch in January to be back in peak form with only three months to go to the Commonwealth Games.
Why would an athlete disrupt his or her regular programme in the hopes of qualifying for the Games and possibly risk messing up the rest of their season?