Athletes not receiving enough support, says long jump champ

Fed-up Samaai flays Sascoc, ASA

Ruswahl Samaai competes in the Mens's Long Jump final during day two of 17th IAAF World Athletics Champions Doha 2019 in Qatar.
Ruswahl Samaai competes in the Mens's Long Jump final during day two of 17th IAAF World Athletics Champions Doha 2019 in Qatar.
Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Two-time African long jump champion Ruswahl Samaai is pleading with Athletics SA (ASA) and SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) to put athletes first.

The IAAF world champs and Commonwealth Games bronze medalist feels that he is not receiving enough support from the two federations.

The Paarl-born jumper is frustrated by the lack of competition locally and fears that could count against them at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.

Samaai, who won the Bauhaus Galan Diamond League meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, in August, is worried that athletes won’t be able to get medals at the Games if they don’t receive enough support. The 29-year-old leaped to 8.09m to win the competition.

“When a high-profile athlete like me says these things, I know that I always get into trouble. But ASA and Sascoc are not doing enough to assist athletes. We must go out there and be able to perform without adequate assistance. ASA should fight harder for us. I’m upset to see the current state of the sport in the country, and all I can say is that as athletes, we don’t have a voice,” said a frustrated Samaai.

On Sunday, ASA will officially open training grounds and tracks all over the country for athletes.

Samaai says he had to sweat first before he got permission to travel to Europe to compete in the Diamond League.

“It was not easy to get permission to travel to Europe. It took months for me to be able to go to Europe. In Europe, we got tested for Covid-19 every second day, and I embraced the change.”

Samaai feels that there is no plan in place to help athletes to make the podium at the Olympics. “These are difficult times for athletes. We still don’t have a Sascoc president, and the focus is on administrators. But if I get a medal, I will be paraded and acknowledged by Sascoc and the sports minister. I have not had access to training facilities and had to make a plan,” said Samaai.

Despite all his magnificent achievements, the Rio 2016 Olympian has no sponsor. “With all my accolades, I have nothing. No sponsors. But I am a medal prospect for Tokyo,” he said.

The Boland athletics member is hoping that whoever wins the Sascoc elections on November 7 will focus on athletes for a change.

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