Only the best will go to Rio

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTH­OWA­GAE dmoth­owa­gae@city­

About 60 ath­letes have al­ready met the strin­gent SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee (Sas­coc) Olympic Games qual­i­fy­ing stan­dards.

This is the sta­tus of Sas­coc’s “Road to Rio” cam­paign, with seven months to go be­fore the mul­ti­coded event starts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sas­coc CEO Tubby Reddy said: “At the mo­ment, 60 have qual­i­fied and this in­cludes Banyana Banyana and the rugby Sevens team. If you haven’t sat­is­fied our qual­i­fy­ing cri­te­ria, it’s non-ne­go­tiable.”

He was speak­ing to City Press fol­low­ing the Olympic gov­ern­ing body’s press con­fer­ence that re­it­er­ated its stance on not al­low­ing the na­tional men’s and women’s hockey teams to go, de­spite the two sides hav­ing won African ti­tles in Oc­to­ber.

Sas­coc pres­i­dent Gideon Sam main­tained the de­ci­sion was not hurt­ing the coun­try’s am­bi­tions for the Com­mon­wealth Games South Africa would host in Dur­ban in 2022.

Sam said the Olympic con­trol­ling body would re­view the team se­lec­tion cri­te­ria af­ter the Rio Games.

“We must plan ahead for the 2018 Gold Coast [Com­mon­wealth Games] and Tokyo 2020 [Olympics]. In 2022, we can’t host and fail to per­form,” he said.

Mean­while, Reddy said Sas­coc was still ex­pect­ing Team SA to swell to more than 100 ath­letes by the Olympics.

“Qual­i­fy­ing dead­lines for codes such as ath­let­ics and swim­ming will come closer to the Games,” said Reddy.

Al­ready a num­ber of track and field ath­letes at­tained their en­try marks at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Bei­jing, China, in Au­gust, and in the same month ca­noe­ing qual­i­fied a kayak­ing boat at the In­ter­na­tional Ca­noe Fed­er­a­tion Ca­noe Sprint World Cham­pi­onships in Italy.

Lon­don Olympic Games bronze medal­list Bridgitte Hart­ley ini­tially missed out on the first al­lo­cated places in the Olympic qual­i­fi­ca­tion process, but her semi­fi­nal fin­ish in the 500m K1 at the Mi­lan cham­pi­onships was enough to see her through.

The likes of world num­ber one and global 400m cham­pion Wayde van Niek­erk and javelin bronze medal­list Sunette Viljoen have also pro­vi­sion­ally booked their berths.

They, how­ever, still have to prove their form closer to the Olympics. The qual­i­fy­ing win­dow pe­riod for track and field will only close in July next year.

Banyana were among the most re­cent ad­di­tions to the Rio-bound Team SA af­ter they qual­i­fied as one of the top two teams in the Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Foot­ball’s women’s Olympic qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment.

They over­came Equa­to­rial Guinea 1-0 on ag­gre­gate in the fourth round play-off in Oc­to­ber. Banyana – who will take 18 play­ers to Rio – joined an­other team sport, the men’s rugby Sevens side, af­ter the Bl­itzbokke se­cured their spot in the World Rugby Sevens Series in Glas­gow, Scot­land in May.

Three sailors have also qual­i­fied. In Haifa, Is­rael, in Oc­to­ber, Ase­n­athi Jim and Roger Hud­son earned the South African 470-class sail­ing team a spot at the world cham­pi­onships. Their feat matched that of Laser sailor Ste­fano Mar­cia, who qual­i­fied ear­lier this year.

In terms of the bud­get for Team SA, Sas­coc said the only fi­nan­cial chal­lenge was around the team’s prepa­ra­tions.

“We don’t have the ca­pac­ity to fund ev­ery­body as we do with the lit­tle we have for the Opex [Oper­a­tion Ex­cel­lence] pro­gramme,” said Reddy.

“The large part of the ser­vices [at the Olympics] is pro­vided for by the or­gan­is­ers when it comes to meals and ac­com­mo­da­tion. There is also a sub­sidy for the ath­letes’ air tick­ets.”

The SA men’s Un­der-23 foot­ball team can also still qual­ify af­ter they beat Tu­nisia 1-0 on Fri­day to reach the semi­fi­nals of the on­go­ing CAF Un­der-23 Africa Cup of Na­tions that ends in Sene­gal on Satur­day. The team must fin­ish in the top three to reach Rio.

Com­piled by Daniel Mothowa­gae

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropou­los/Getty Images





Sas­coc pres­i­dent Gideon Sam

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