Magakwe ... the big Olympic loser

SPRINTER Simon Magakwe ran into great form early this season, and now he's run into a brick wall.

The fastest man in South African history, having equalled the 10.06sec national record, impressed enough to earn invitations to top-notch European meets, lining up against Usain Bolt three times in May and June.

Magakwe ran six qualifying times in the 100m and two more in the 200m, but the recently crowned African 100m champion was not considered good enough to represent SA at the 2012 London Games.

The sad case of Magakwe's omission proves one thing - that SA's Olympic numbers just don't add up.

Of Team SA's 125 competitors for the London Games, 18 are pool swimmers. Track and field athletes - excluding the six marathon runners and one walker - total a paltry 13.

How on earth in sunny SA, where far more people are able to run, skip and jump than can swim, do we end up with more swimmers than athletes? Even if you add in the marathon runners and walker to push their squad to 20, you must throw in the two open-water swimmers. At best it's a dead heat.

But that remains an anomaly, because the Olympics are designed to accommodate far more athletes than swimmers.

Even the medals SA won at the respective world championships last year don't reflect this anomaly - the athletes won four and the swimmers one.

One obvious reason for this is the tough qualifying criteria agreed on between SA's Olympic body Sascoc and Athletics SA (ASA).

The IAAF requires athletes to achieve one A-qualifying time to secure automatic selection (as long as they are among their nation's top three), while Sascoc requires two A-qualifying times, one of those at an international meet.

Magakwe was undoubtedly the biggest loser.

Last week he became the first SA man to win the African 100m championship. His only crime was not being able to get an international qualifying time. ASA asked Sascoc to waive the qualifying rules for Magakwe and 1500m runner Johan Cronje, but without success.

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