Com­mon­wealth Games: The real medals story

Finweek English Edition - - LIFESTYLE - BY GRAEME JOFFE

It doesn’t mat­ter how much the South African Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee’s (Sas­coc’s) ex­pen­sive ‘ bud­dy­buddy’ pub­lic re­la­tions com­pany spins it, South Africa has once again un­der­achieved at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

I’m not for one minute blam­ing any of the ath­letes who all gave 120% in an ef­fort to win medals, but one needs to look at the facts. (See ta­ble below.)

Should we be sat­is­fied with 40 medals af­ter get­ting 46 back in 2002?

Should we be sat­is­fied to fin­ish be­hind New Zealand and Scot­land on the medals ta­ble (two coun­tries that to­gether have a fifth of our pop­u­la­tion)?

Sas­coc pre­dicted 43 medals for the 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games in Glas­gow, Scot­land.

Forty-three medals was a very cau­tious es­ti­mate, con­sid­er­ing that the sport­ing body’s officials didn’t want to ex­pose them­selves like they did with the Lon­don Olympics, when they pre­dicted 12 medals and we got half that.

I can as­sure you, Sas­coc didn’t fac­tor in seven lawn bowls medals in Glas­gow in its tally of 43.

What an un­be­liev­able achieve­ment from our bowlers, in a sport that sur­vives on scraps when it comes to fund­ing.

So, take away the seven bowls medals and Chad le Clos’s re­mark­able seven swim­ming medals and what are you left with?

It is 26 medals from 118 ath­letes (ex­clud­ing the team sports), who Sas­coc se­lected on the cri­te­ria that they were ranked top five in the Com­mon­wealth and medal po­ten­tial.

“We came here for medals, not to run around in the streets of Glas­gow,” said Sas­coc pres­i­dent Gideon Sam.

Per­haps that’s why we didn’t have any marathon run­ners at the Games.

If the Aus­tralian win­ner of the men’s marathon had been South African, he wouldn’t have gone to the Games on Sas­coc’s se­lec­tion cri­te­ria. That’s how wrong the sport­ing body’s got it.

SA’s Lusapho April, who fin­ished third in the New York City marathon in 2013, wasn’t even asked by Sas­coc or Ath­let­ics SA (ASA) if he was avail­able for the Com­mon­wealth Games.

But there was a good, pos­i­tive feel­ing in Glas­gow that SA track and field was back.

SA won nine medals in track and field, with gold medals from Khotso Mokoena (triple jump), Cor­nel Fred­er­icks (440m hur­dles) and Fanie van der Merwe (100m T37).

But how many more medals could we have got if we had more ath­letes par­tic­i­pat­ing and the Opex fund­ing from Sas­coc was prop­erly ad­min­is­tered?

Just as a mat­ter of in­ter­est, Fred­er­icks is on Opex (tier 2), which en­ti­tled him to R212 868 from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014.

“Sas­coc al­ways gets in­volved af­ter an ath­lete is suc­cess­ful, not be­fore, when they need it most,” said for­mer SA ath­lete Ar­naud Mal­herbe.

We saw ex­actly that with sprinter Si­mon Ma­gakwe af­ter he broke the SA 100m record in April this year and sud­denly even Min­is­ter of Sports and Recre­ation Fik­ile Mbalula was all over him like a rash.

“We are go­ing to take care of him so that he does not have to worry about other things ex­cept to run great times. We will put him on the Opex pro­gramme,” Mbalula said.

Ma­gakwe, who is the de­fend­ing Africa 100m cham­pion, should have been on the Opex pro­gramme at least two years ago if he was to be given ev­ery chance of medalling in Glas­gow and in Rio 2016.

Caster Se­menya was one of a num­ber of ath­letes who didn’t have their Opex sup­port ex­tended.

Why was long- dis­tance ath­lete El­roy Ge­lant not at the Games?

Ear­lier this year, Ge­lant fin­ished seventh in the 3 000m in the World In­door cham­pi­onships, beat­ing other in­ter­na­tional ath­letes who were in Scot­land.

The win­ner of the 5 000m gold in Glas­gow ran a 13:12:07 – Ge­lant ran a per­sonal best of 13:15:87 last year.

At the 2010 Com­mon­wealth Games, SA swim­mers got 15 medals (seven gold). In 2014, SA got 12 medals (three gold) – why the over­all de­cline?

There could be a cou­ple of fac­tors but most fin­gers point to­wards an in­ept Swim­ming SA fed­er­a­tion (SSA), whose CEO Shaun Adri­aanse was man­ager of the swim team in Glas­gow (against SSA rules) and pres­i­dent Jace Naidoo who was on pool deck again, us­ing up a pre­cious ac­cred­i­ta­tion, which should be for coaches.

Fund­ing is also a ma­jor prob­lem but you can’t blame cor­po­rate SA for not tak­ing the dive when SSA is plagued by al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The suc­cess of SA swim­mers is by in large no thanks to SSA and the likes of Adri­aanse and Naidoo, who are pro­tected by Sas­coc.

In­stead, Sas­coc took aim at our fe­male swim­mers for their poor per­for­mance in Glas­gow.

Naidoo is also a Sas­coc board mem­ber. Sadly, it’s a vi­cious cir­cle. The ath­letes are si­lenced due to dra­co­nian codes of con­duct put in place by Sas­coc and the fed­er­a­tions don’t go to bat for the ath­letes as they are scared of los­ing their fund­ing and mem­ber­ship of Sas­coc.

Sas­coc has re­ceived more than R600m of Lotto fund­ing since the NLB was es­tab­lished. That’s a lot of money. So, you have an un­touch­able Sas­coc con­trol­ling the purse strings and mak­ing all the de­ci­sions in­clud­ing fi­nal se­lec­tions.

Hence, SA had seven bad­minton play­ers at CG (none ranked top 85 in the world) but no men’s road cy­cling team and no squash play­ers.

Of the seven bad­minton play­ers, the best re­sult was a last-eight qual­i­fi­ca­tion in women’s dou­bles.

The men’s road cy­cling team would have had a def­i­nite chance to medal and t here is sim­ply no ex­cuse for squash play­ers – Steve Cop­pinger (ranked 21 in the world) and Siy­oli Wa­ters (ranked 35 in the world) not be­ing se­lected for the Games.

There are so many other cases of un­just se­lec­tion but Sas­coc sim­ply does as it pleases with­out stick­ing to its own cri­te­ria.

Net­ball wasn’t ranked in the Com­mon­wealth top five at time of se­lec­tion but it would have been em­bar­rass­ing for the sports min­is­ter had our net­ball team not gone to Glas­gow con­sid­er­ing all the money that has gone into the sport and ‘his’ new do­mes­tic league.

Net­ball fin­ished out of the medals in sixth place, af­ter los­ing to Malawi in the play-off for fifth and sixth.

Fund­ing can­not be used as an ex­cuse for lack of medals – the money is there but where is it go­ing?

SA Ta­ble Ten­nis got over R8.2m from the Lotto in 2013 and yet we had no ta­ble ten­nis play­ers in Glas­gow, or at the Lon­don Olympics for that mat­ter.

The al­leged mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of Lotto fund­ing will con­tinue to ham­per the growth of SA sport and the dreams of our ath­letes.

But there never seems to be a lack of fund­ing for the officials from the De­part­ment of Sport and Recre­ation, Sas­coc and the Lotto as well as their PAs, fam­ily and friends to at­tend the Games (fly­ing busi­ness class, of course). It is laugh­able, isn’t it? DA par­lia­men­tar­ian a nd Sas­coc board mem­ber Kobus Marais also doesn’t miss out on too many ‘free­bies’ ei­ther. When asked who paid for his trip to Glas­gow, what role he was there in and whether he was on l eave, Marais replied: “You are free to ap­proach the DA Chief Whip. I know the pro­to­col and rules very well, and I’m an ex­pe­ri­enced MP. Why would I not ad­here to these?”

More ques­tions than an­swers and not a word on what his role was in Glas­gow and who paid for his trip.

These officials are ‘liv­ing the life of Ri­ley’ while so many of our ath­letes and coaches are sit­ting at home due to ‘fund­ing is­sues’.

Javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen’s coach wasn’t able to share in her sil­ver medal suc­cess as Sas­coc wouldn’t pay for him to go, and we had gym­nasts at the Games for the first time with no coach.

These are not iso­lated cases and it’s just all wrong.

For what we have in tal­ent, fi­nance and fa­cil­i­ties, we should be get­ting at least 80 medals at the Com­mon­wealth Games and not 40.

But 80 is just a pipe dream un­til we have trans­parency and real sports peo­ple run­ning sport in this coun­try.

graeme@but­ter­bean.co.za

“SAS­COC AL­WAYS GETS IN­VOLVED AF­TER AN ATH­LETE IS SUC­CESS­FUL, NOT BE­FORE, WHEN THEY NEED IT MOST.”

Who’s tak­ing the credit? Good to see all the medal­lists sit­ting up front.

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