ASA’s double standards
Selectors miss golden opportunity to promote women, create role models
SIX, eight, five, and six. That was South Africa’s female representation at the last four IAAF World Championships.
If it was not of the IAAF inviting a women’s 4x400m relay team to this year’s edition in London, it would have been closer to six than the current nine.
Four of South Africa’s 11 medals over the five championships came courtesy of Caster Semenya,
with her 800m gold in 2009 and silver in 2011, and Sunette Viljoen’s bronze medals in 2011 and 2015.
This is not bad considering how the women’s team is dwarfed by that of the men at every single championship.
This year was the ideal opportunity for South Africa to finally select a team consisting of more than 10 women.
But Athletics SA’s (ASA) reluctance to select athletes who have met the IAAF’s qualifying standards demolished any hopes of this.
Seemingly applying double standards in their selection process, ASA chose some of the athletes based on the socalled “B” standards while others were omitted.
There was no place for Rio Olympian Alyssa Conley, distance ace Dominique Scott-Efurd, race walker Anel Oosthuizen, or Claudia Heunis as a wildcard entrant due to winning the African 100m hurdles title last year.
The move seems self-sabotaging as the sport looks to promote athletics among women and develop female role models.
The athletics team will consist of 17 men and nine women with the gap seemingly closing compared to two years ago when the ratio was 29 to six.
The numbers would have looked slightly different had ASA applied equitable criteria across the board, but one can technically claim there is progress.
The SA women’s team will once again be spearheaded by Olympic champion Semenya, who will be going for the 800/1500m double at next month’s championships.
Semenya has been the dominant force in the 800m over the last two years with the former world champion going into the global showpiece with an undefeated run of 18 races over the two-lap distance.
She will be something of an unknown force in the 1500m having raced the distance only once this season and posting a time of four minutes 16.87 seconds, which is low down the world rankings.
Her personal best of 4:01.99 which earned her the African title and entry to the world championships, ranked her 14th in the world in 2016.
Viljoen will be looking to rekindle the form that won her the Rio Olympics javelin throw silver medal.
The two-time world bronze medallist has been battling with form lately after making a promising start to her year with a season’s best 63.49m. At her last meeting in Lucerne, Viljoen failed to land a throw of over 60 metres.
She returns to the scene where she narrowly missed out on a medal at the London 2012 Olympics.
Leading 400m hurdler Wenda Nel has also been struggling to regain top form and will be looking to be at her best in London, while joint SA 100m record-holder Carina Horn is in the same boat.