Renowned athletics coach Jean Verster expects a busy weekend for Athletics SA (ASA) as athletes will attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games in the final track meeting at the Puk McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
Athletics Central North West is expecting many athletes to enter their event with the Olympic cutoff date of June 29 drawing closer.
The meeting will not exceed more than 250 athletes and will adhere to Covid-19 regulations, with the race entries closing on Thursday. Veteran javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen, sprinters Justine Palframan and Reabetswe Moloi and triple jumper Zinzi Xulu have already entered.
Verster, who is the coach of 3,000m and 5,000m record-holders Jerry Motsau and Elroy Gelant, said it was unusual for ASA and the provinces to hold a meeting during the winter but they were doing this to help athletes qualify for the Olympics.
“The South African season ends early because of winter, but we felt that it is necessary to create opportunities for them to try and qualify. They still have a chance in the sprints and other open events to secure their Olympic qualification. I have spoken to a few athletes and they promised to make the most of the opportunity given to them," Verster told Sowetan.
Verster, who guided golden girl Caster Semenya and Botswana’s Nigel Amos to gold and silver medals at the Olympic Games in London in 2012, said he knew what was going through the minds of the athletes.
Verster singled out middle-distance star Precious Mashele for special praise after he attempted to qualify for the men’s 5,000m race numerous times.
“I take my hat off to Mashele, it is difficult to qualify and run a standard qualifying time in SA when you are running alone without pacesetters. I hope the others will push themselves hard and qualify for the Games," said Verster.