Commonwealth Games: The real medals story
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.
“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.