SA athletes need better backing to bridge the gap – Sam
PRESIDENT of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, Gideon Sam (above), did not mince his words this week: “The world has left us behind and we have to catch up!”
Sam was speaking at Sascoc’s annual general meeting of South Africa’s more than 70 sporting federations in Polokwane, Limpopo.
“We know what we are up against,” said Sam. “It was to this end that we started Operation Excellence (OPEX) earlier this year. We set out to form a squad of the very best SA sportsmen and teams and applied the criteria that to make the squad, they had to be in the top eight in the world individually and top five when it came to teams. We couldn’t even find 20, only 16! So what does that tell you? It’s time to catch up.”
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom from Sam, who has been tirelessly touring the country over the last few months to bring the federations up to speed. This has all been in terms of his shortterm dream to bring back 12 medals from the 2012 Olympics in London.
“We now have a total of 59 athletes (35 in the Olympic sports and 24 in the Paralympics). We have almost completed all the one-on-one interviews with them and their federations and already 39 have come back to us with their individual budgets of what will be needed for them to excel in 2012.”
It’s hard work for a man who celebrates his 60th birthday next week but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If we want to be taken seriously, we must take ourselves seriously. Sascoc is a collection of all these federations and they know they must all look deeply at themselves.”
And Sam is not beyond thinking out of the box in his quest for excellence.
“Our latest move is to bring the Defence Force, SA Police Service and universities more into the picture.
“There are vast Defence Force sporting facilities out there that are barely used. That is wrong. The military council is now busy discussing an appeal by us to open up those facilities. All the federations have to do is to come to us and ask us.”
Eight of the country’s universities are also buying into the future.
“We want to know from the varsities just who will be the stars bringing us glory in 2024. Let us know now so we can start grooming them right away.”
Nor is Sam too proud to look backward on the road ahead.
“It’s come to our attention that there are so many people out there who want to help us but don’t know how to go about it. There are ex-athletes, coaches and scientists whom we plan to bring on board. What we are busy doing right now is building a database with a vast knowledge that we can all tap into.”
Sam also promised to be more aggressive in terms of boosting Sascoc’s financial reserves. “We are making our voice loud with the Lotto board.
“The time for kid gloves is over and again, it’s up to the federations to be aggressive, do their homework, state their cases properly... the money is there. We need to correctly identify the athletes and coaches and then put that money firmly behind them.”