Cri­te­ria are clear – ASA

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTHOWAGE dmoth­owa­gae@city­press.co.za

Ath­let­ics SA (ASA) pres­i­dent Aleck Skhosana has re­as­sured the run­ning com­mu­nity that Olympic marathon qual­i­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria have not changed, af­ter there was some panic among ath­letes and coaches over the past few weeks.

The bone of con­tention has been whether South Africa’s Rio Olympics marathon hope­fuls will be picked based on run­ning the re­quired qual­i­fy­ing times or for meet­ing the ASA’s re­quire­ment of com­pet­ing at the na­tional marathon cham­pi­onships over the past three years.

Most ath­letes and coaches took their cue from the agree­ment be­tween the ASA and the SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee (Sas­coc) signed in July last year.

The doc­u­ment stated that ath­letes had to “have com­peted at the na­tional cham­pi­onships in 2014 and/or 2015, un­less ex­empted from par­tic­i­pa­tion by the [Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion] for med­i­cal rea­sons”.

How­ever, the cause of all the trou­bles was the word­ing “and/or 2016”, which was only in­serted eight days be­fore this year’s Marathon Cham­pi­onships in East Lon­don last Satur­day.

This begged the ques­tion of whether the coun­try’s marathon prospects, such as Lusapho April and Sibu­siso Nz­ima, would be con­sid­ered for Olympic se­lec­tion, as the pair had al­ready made plans to race over­seas and missed last week’s cham­pi­onships.

April rep­re­sented the coun­try at the 2012 Olympics while Nz­ima was part of the ASA’s marathon squad at the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions World Cham­pi­onships in Bei­jing, China, last year.

Sas­coc last week is­sued a state­ment that stated that “we have only added the words ‘and/or 2016’ in clause 1.8 of the el­i­gi­bil­ity of ath­letes [in their signed agree­ment with the ASA]”.

The body fur­ther stressed that ath­letes needed to have par­tic­i­pated in the 2014, 2015 or 2016 cham­pi­onships to be el­i­gi­ble for se­lec­tion to go to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in Au­gust.

Given that April and Nz­ima had not com­peted at the na­tion­als, as per the cri­te­ria, Skhosana said they would treat each case on its merit. “We had to set the record [on qual­i­fi­ca­tion] straight, see­ing that our qual­i­fy­ing stan­dards have come un­der the spot­light for some time, some­thing that made it seem that the ASA and Sas­coc were say­ing two dif­fer­ent things to the ath­letes,” Skhosana told City Press this week.

“We are clear on the qual­i­fy­ing cri­te­ria and noth­ing has changed as far as we are con­cerned. It is go­ing to be a hec­tic year for our ath­letes and we still com­mit to as­sist some with prepa­ra­tions to race over­seas.”

Skhosana went as far as al­leg­ing that some re­porters had in­flu­enced some of the ath­letes to boy­cott the cham­pi­onships in East Lon­don.

The men’s race was won by Lu­cas Jani in a time of 2:21:32, while Pa­tience Khu­malo took the women’s cat­e­gory in 2:47:15. Nei­ther time breached the Rio qual­i­fy­ing stan­dards – 2:19:00 (men) and 2:45:00 (women).

The IAAF re­laxed its track and field qual­i­fy­ing stan­dards across 17 events in Novem­ber.

This in­cluded the marathon qual­i­fy­ing times, which where ini­tially 2:17:00 for men and 2:42:00 for women.

Only the three fastest men and women will make the South African team to Rio.

The ASA will sub­mit its Olympic team to Sas­coc in June, which the Olympic gov­ern­ing body will then ap­prove prior to the an­nounce­ment of the fi­nal batch of Team SA mem­bers in July.

PHOTO: CARL FOURIE / GALLO IM­AGES

MEDAL HOPE­FUL Sibu­siso Nz­ima missed the SA Marathon Cham­pi­onships

PHOTO: JUMBO

SHAP­ING FOR RIO Lusapho April will line up at the New York half marathon

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