ASA’s dou­ble stan­dards

Se­lec­tors miss golden op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote women, cre­ate role models

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCKERT DE VILLIERS

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.

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