Home athletics, track and field OPINION: SA 50km world champs administrative mess-up embarrassing

OPINION: SA 50km world champs administrative mess-up embarrassing

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Sunday should have been a day of pride for a good number of the country’s top road-running athletes, but it was not to be, writes Matshelane Mamabolo.

Adele Broodryk finishes second in the Comrades Marathon 2023. File Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo, African News Agency (ANA)

Sunday should have been a day of pride for a good number of the country’s top road-running athletes.

They should have been in Hyderabad, India, representing their country at the IAU World 50km Championships. For most of the athletes, it would have been their first time wearing the country’s green and gold – the ultimate achievement in any ambitious athlete’s career.

“I’ve always had two big running dreams, which are to run Comrades and to represent my country, South Africa,” Adele Broodryk said the other day.

She realised the first dream in style, having finished second in this year’s Comrades Marathon.

She thought she was about to ­realise the second dream, only to have it turned into a nightmare by the incompetence of some selfish officials at Athletics South Africa (ASA), who botched up the athletes’ travel arrangements.

As a result, Broodryk and eight other athletes could not travel to the World Championships they had trained so hard for.

Nkosikhona Mhlakwana, a sterling athlete whose career has been on such an upward trajectory that you could have bet on him ensuring that Team South Africa win gold in India, understandably lamented the pathetic treatment they have received at the hands of those who are supposed to take care of them. “They have killed my spirit. I am so disappointed and frustrated.”

Now Mhlakwana is one of the most positive athletes you’d meet out there, and for him to utter those words speaks to the depth of his pain at being robbed of what could probably have been a serious career-enhancing event.

Perhaps most painful for these athletes – Galaletsang Mekgoe, Zintle Shabalala, Dan Matshailwe and Gladwin Mzazi – are the others who could not travel, while Stella Marais, Deane Loubscher, Pule Sibeko and Rufus Photo made the trip – is that they had prepared for the event out of their own pockets.

Surely ASA have to refund them for these costs? It only makes sense. In any case, the sport’s mother body should carry the can for athletes’ preparations for events where they will be representing the country, right?

What transpired was an embarrassment and an indictment of the ­administration of the sport in this country; the fact that there has not been any word from ASA’s highest office talks to the lack of care by the leadership.

Enoch Skosana, ASA’s road running commissioner, was particularly arrogant when I approached him for comment.

He accused me of being hard on ASA, and said I should allow them to do their job.

But how can I be soft on ASA when they are playing not only with athletes’ careers, but their emotions and finances?

How can I be soft on ASA when the likes of Skosana are sleeping on the job? These, after all, are people who knew long ago that there was an event in India.

They knew long ago which athletes were going to represent the country. Damn it, they had the athletes’ passports for more than a month.

How then can I not be hard on them for failing to organise visas for the athletes, which Skosana and his colleague Thabang Maleka claimed was the reason for the failed trip?

Surely ASA president James Moloi has to come down on those responsible like a ton of bricks. And he must refund the athletes who spent their hard-earned monies to prepare for an event they were made to miss out on.

Need I mention that Sascoc, as well as the Department of Sport and Recreation, must get to the root of what exactly transpired to bring about this cock-up by ASA?

Surely after such a mess-up, some heads should roll at ASA.

Matshelane Mamabolo

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