Sat Oct 22 01:55:56 SAST 2016

our runners' shame

By unknown | Dec 01, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

South Africa is but a shade of its former self when it comes to world-class road runners.

The country earlier introduced us to the likes of revered runners such as Titus Mamabolo, Mark Plaatjes, Josia Thugwane, Willie Mtolo, the late Matthews Motshwarateu, Matthews Temane, Zithulele Sinqe, Xolile Yawa, Zola Budd, Elena Meyer and Frith van der Merwe.

Other household names include Kenny Jacobs who has since died, Thompson Magawana, Ernest Seleke, Gert Thys, Sam Tshabalala, Hendrick Ramaala and Sarah Mahlangu. The list is infinite.

These are some of the athletes who once made the country proud in different road running events, locally and abroad.

But the same could not be said about our current long distance runners. They have allowed foreign athletes to take centre stage in South Africa's marathon events, and this is a major course for concern for Athletics South Africa (ASA), the national governing body.

The foreign marathoners, to be precise those from Lesotho, have made the yearly Nedbank Soweto Marathon theirs.

Their dominance in this race is well-documented and the locals should be ashamed of themselves for always disappointing the South African public.

It should also be noted that the Zimbabweans have also dominated the People's Race.

Mmamorallo Tjoka, the meek runner from Lesotho, has won the race for an unparalleled four times on the trot.

The last time a South African won the women's title was back in 2004 when Charne Bosman (nee Rademeyer).

Mluleki Nobanda was the last local athlete to win the men's section in 2001, and then the titles went to the Lesotho and Zimbabwean athletes.

ASA believe lack of planning by local athletes have made them to play second fiddle to the foreigners.

"Our athletes don't prepare enough for the races because they want to compete in as many events as possible to make more money," noted a concerned ASA's president Leonard Chuene.

"They don't take care of their health and we can't allow the situation to continue like this. The problem here has been aggravated by the fact that we have many athletics clubs.

"As ASA we don't have power over these clubs when it comes to restricting them to a number of races their athletes should compete in. But we will engage them in a bid to find a solution to this problem," he said.

Frans Chauke, one of the top South African runners, put it bluntly when he said the locals lacked discipline and planning.

The forthright Chauke lambasted his compatriots, on the eve of this year's Soweto Marathon.

"Our problem with our athletes is that they want to compete in every marathon and ultra-marathon events at their disposal and forgetting that they are killing themselves health-wise," Chauke said.

"The way they have been handling themselves strikes me like they are desperate for money."

In his document, Dewald Steyn, athletics agent and administrator, highlights the reasons that contributed to the decline in standard in South African marathon running.

He says some of the reasons are the disappearance of the mine clubs that employed and developed athletes; the appearance of professional clubs that over-emphasise the Comrades and other ultra marathon events; the policy of excluding SA athletes not running in provincial colours from the Championships.

Also the contracts top athletes have to sign, compelling them to run ultra marathon events at an age where they should still be developed to become marathon runners. The reasons also include lack of opportunities to regularly compete at international level; and lack of proper management of athletes for their long-term benefit.

Steyn believes the government, through ASA, should fund programmes involving knowledgeable people to develop athletes to their full potential.

He said such programmes should ensure that unhealthy sponsorship does not put an early end to promising future athletes.

He said responsible sponsors should be found who would base their exposure on performances of athletes achieved through programmes developed and executed by knowledgeable people.

He warned top runners to avoid many slow local races just to make a living because this will degrade their CVs.

"Races like the Soweto Marathon are meaningless for any marathon athlete's CVs. It should be remembered that this information about their performances is available on international websites, and thus prevent them from getting invitations."

He added that for South African runners to improve to international standard, a short and long term plan should be developed.

This should make use of the knowledge and experience of coaches, managers and organisers who have proved themselves in sport and have expertise in the care, management and coaching of athletes.


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT