Athletes must go overseas to qualify for Olympics - but there's not enough money to pay for their trips
LOCAL sprint star Tsholofelo Thipe and other Olympic hopefuls must pay out their own pockets if they want to qualify for the London Games.
To be selected, athletes have to achieve at least two qualifying standards, one of which must be done at an international meet.
Athletics SA (ASA) is giving Thipe and several other athletes R10,000 each to help them go to Europe to get the “international” qualifying standards.
But Oliver Topeuth, the agent of Thipe and several other athletes, says this is not enough.
He has worked out his athletes will need R22,700 each to fund their campaigns in Europe, covering costs such as food, accommodation and travel.
Thipe has achieved four qualifying times, two in the 200m and two in the 400m, but because her efforts were in local races, the mother-of-one must still run those times again at meets with international status.
Topeuth believes the R1-million recently given to ASA by government for Olympic preparations should cover these expenses.
But ASA chief executive Frik Vermaak says that money is not sufficient for everyone. “Athlete support forms part of that money we received, but not all of it.”
He said the R1-million also had to fund the recent race walking World Cup in Russia, where Marc Mundell qualified, as well as the African championships in Benin at the end of June, which is a compulsory meeting for most of SA’s Olympic-bound athletes.
Vermaak said 37 athletes had applied for financial assistance; eight were rejected and four are now getting help from the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
“We approved the rest with a maximum contribution of R10,000 each. We are already over what we got,” he warned.
“We also had to pay for the SA Open championships (Pretoria recently). If you look at the numbers we are digging deep into our own coffers to assist the athletes.”
Vermaak said Topeuth was the only agent who had complained.
“Of the eight agents we work with he is the only one that has this problem ... I got emails (from some of the others) to say thank you very much.
“An agent would find you races to run, would have a base in Europe, would make sure that you are there and running, would recover your winnings, would cover the costs and pay you what’’s left.
“The other agents are doing exactly that.”
Vermaak confirmed that prize money from the meets in the local season would be paid to athletes shortly, once results of all the drug tests were returned.
Thipe was among 11 athletes who shared in the R200,000 pot of gold for achieving qualifying times, which worked out to R18,181 each.