sa sold short
Athletics legend Hendrick Ramaala has blamed the country's failure to do well in China squarely on a lack of financial support from government and the corporate world, plus poor administration.
Ramaala, an internationally renowned marathoner who is a lawyer by profession, is one of the few remaining South African medal hopes at the Beijing Olympics.
Unlike Australia, who spent about R3,5 billion on their team to prepare for the current Olympics, South Africa spent a paltry R50 million, which came from government and the Lotto.
Sponsors who supported the team during the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in Sydney and Athens have dumped Moss Mashishi and his committee in favour of Paralympians.
Ramaala said the failure by codes like swimming and hockey to get medals put athletics under pressure to save the country from further embarrassment.
"Athletics is going to be under pressure to deliver a medal and I think we have to do it," said Ramaala from Albuquerque in the United States.
Josia Thugwane, another prominent South African runner, also went to Albuquerque in 1996 for training before winning the Atlanta Olympic marathon.
"The results of the SA team in Beijing is the result of lack of investment by government and sponsors in Olympic sports," Ramaala said at the weekend.
"We were not given enough financial assistance to prepare well for this Games. I had to fund my own three-week warm weather training here in Albuquerque in the hope of being refunded later.
"[Norman] Dlomo could not come with with me as planned, due to lack of funds."
Dlomo and Ramaala will take part in the marathon event. Dlomo, who left for Asia at the weekend, trained in Thabazimbi, Limpopo.
"Unfortunately, RSA is not on par with Australia, USA, UK, Europe or even the Gulf states when it comes to taking Olympic sports seriously," added Ramaala.
"There are also issues of lack of world-class coaching, poor administration and lack of commitment by some athletes.
"It's a long story and it's about time we tackle these issues head-on. Personally, I am not worried, I will go there and give it my best shot.
"For the marathon, I'm ready for Beijing. I think it's an open race because of the extreme conditions. The guys who can stand the conditions better will do well.
"The Asians are supposed to be used to the conditions because they live there, they [will] start as favourites," said Ramaala, 36, who leaves for Beijing on Wednesday.
Ramaala finished 12th in his first Olympic marathon in Australia in 2000. He bailed out at the Athens Olympic marathon with a groin injury after leading in the early stages.
His achievements include the South African 10000m record, which he set with a time of 27min:29sec. His time of 2:06:55 is second on the all-time SA marathon list behind Gert Thys' 2:06:33.
Ramaala also the only South African to have dipped below one hour in the half-marathon.
He won the 2003 Lisbon Half-Marathon before scooping the New York City Marathon title the following year. In 2006 he also won the Great North Run.
l See more Beijing Olympics reports in Sports Voltage starting on page 16.