Criteria are clear – ASA
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.
MEDAL HOPEFUL Sibusiso Nzima missed the SA Marathon Championships
SHAPING FOR RIO Lusapho April will line up at the New York half marathon