Boost for future top athletes

The High Performance Centre (HPC) at the University of Pretoria will fast-track budding athletes -thanks to a generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

The undisclosed amount will go towards the establishment of an athletics academy, HPC chief executive Toby Sutcliffe said in Pretoria on Monday. "Eventually there will be 100 learners in the programme, each covered for between R140 000 and R150 000 per year," Sutcliffe said.

The selected athletes will receive full scholarships, which includes coaching, sport science, psychology, nutrition, massage therapy, accommodation, meals and schooling at TuksSport High.

Athletics training will focus on track events, from the 100m to the 10 000m, and includes hurdles and steeple chase.

The short-term goal, Sutcliffe said, is to enrol 30 athletesby October, for the 2014 year, while they hoped to increase the intake to about 60 athletes for 2015.

The HPC will run two talent-identification camps - one in Pretoria and one in Cape Town - for potential athletes aged between 13 and 16, who require financial assistance.

"We want to continue contributing and this is an example of how we are committed to South African sports and athletics," Sutcliffe said.

"To develop a top athlete, you need a minimum of 10 000 hours or seven years of focused work."

World 400m hurdles bronze medallist LJ van Zyl said the programme would give athletics a much-needed boost given the current turmoil in the sport.

"This is a great initiative to motivate the youngsters and it gives the older athletes hope that there is investment in the sport.

"They will look for talent in the townships, which is a great idea because I don't know of other initiatives like this.

"If you are not in a school with a good athletics programme and which participates in inter-high meetings, how will you find your new Anaso's (Jobodwana) or Simon's (Magakwe)?"