JOHANNESBURG – South Africa returned from the IAAF World Championships in Doha after their worst performance since the Osaka 2007 edition without a single medal to show for their efforts.
This represents a drastic slide from the lofty heights they reached two years ago at the London World Championships.
South Africa finished 20th on the placing table which is 10 spots lower than at the previous edition in 2017.
The placing table awards points to athletes of each nation on a sliding scale according to their placings in the finals of the different events during the world championships.
This is not the worst performance of the last decade with the Moscow 2013 ranking two places lower despite Johan Cronje’s bronze medal.
South Africa’s worst performance on the placing table came at the Helsinki 2005 championships where the country finished 50th.
The London World Championships was the country’s best medal haul at the biennial showpiece courtesy of the three golds, a silver and two bronzes.
In the last eight years and five world championships, eight athletes have been responsible for the 14 individual medals.
The results from the 2017 world championships papered over the cracks that were showing in the sport.
The lack of depth in most of the events was ignored while there was a focus on sending “medal prospects” instead of developing future talent.
The focus since 2015 had been on installing a strict qualifying standard which Athletics SA believed promoted excellence. The stricter criteria sacrificed development for the false belief it would convert into accolades.
Perhaps ASA saw the error of their ways and this year the national federation decided to select athletes that have met the IAAF’s standards instead of its own.
Granted, South Africa left a few medals on the track in Doha with Luvo Manyonga and Akani Simbine finishing fourth in their respective events, while the 4x100m relay team, marathoner Stephen Mokoka and long jumper Ruswahl Samaai ended fifth at the championships.
But there is a lack of succession planning with the country boasting a host of talented youngsters coming through and no sign of nurturing and developing them.
No development plan outside of the university and private sector exists.
Speaking to young upcoming coaches with youngsters with true potential, it is clear there is no appetite or interest to plan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games or the 2024 world champs.
ASA will have to investigate why athletes like Samaai and Manyonga did not perform to their potential and if they needed any assistance to get them back to medal-winning shape.
Two years ago race walker Lebogang Shange produced one of the performances of the London championships when he finished fifth in his specialist event. Shange should have been a medal prospect in Doha.
There is a clear need for a high-performance management unit at ASA that can monitor the athletes’ progress and liaise with them and their management teams.
Defending world champions Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk’s absences were a major blow to South Africa’s campaign.
But what is Plan B if they and other stalwarts like Manyonga and Samaai are not available?
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