SA ath­letes need bet­ter back­ing to bridge the gap – Sam

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - MARK ETHERIDGE

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.”

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