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In the President’s Corner – Gideon Sam

SASCOC President Gideon Sam reflects on Team South Africa’s performance at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Q: You are a president who commits to goals and has never shirked responsibility. What is your feeling on the performance of Team SA in Delhi?

GS: WE WANTED TO CONSOLIDATE 5th POSITION AND WE JUST MADE IT. GENERALLY THE TEAM DID WELL. SOME WERE EXCEPTIONAL BUT OTHERS WERE DISAPPOINTING WHICH BALANCED THE EQUATION.

Q: At the beginning of your tenure you were quoted as saying Delhi would be a measure of how much has been done or how much there still is to do in preparation for London 2012 and 2016. Which is it in your view?

GS: IT IS STILL A CASE OF WORK TO BE DONE – A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE. WHEN YOU DO A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE MEDALS ACHIEVED VERSUS THE WORLD STAGE THEN REALITY SINKS IN.

Q: Kenya, 12 golds, and Nigeria 11, have caught South Africa in terms being the dominant African country in the Commonwealth. Does this surprise you?
GS: NO IT DOES NOT. WE MUST LOOK AT THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION IN THE COUNTRY WHERE WE SERIOUSLY LACK SUSTAINED PROGRAMMES OF THE VARIOUS FEDERATIONS THAT MUST UNEARTH TALENT AND NURTURE THEM TOWARDS EXCELLENCE, WHILE THE REST OF THE WORLD AND AFRICA ARE MAKING STEADY PROGRESS. WE HAVE A SERIOUS CHALLENGE IN THAT OUR FEEDER SYSTEMS ARE ALMOST NON EXISTENT OR MEDIOCRE TO SAY THE LEAST. THERE IS A LACK OF GROWTH FROM SCHOOL TO TERTIARY TO ADULT LEVEL.

Q: You have invested a lot of energy in trying to rejuvenate boxing as a Commonwealth and Olympic strength of South Africa. The program you initiated with the SANDF is aimed at Glasgow 2014 and Rio 2016, but what can you (as head of SASCOC) do to address the non-performance of SA’s boxers at major events. Since our readmission to international sport the boxers have never produced at the Olympics and is it realistic to think there is a boxing medal prospect(s) for London 2012?
GS: THERE IS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY LACKING IN OUR NATIONAL FEDERATION’S SYSTEMS IN THIS SPORT. WE NEED TO DISCUSS WITH SANABO THEIR STRATEGY AND ADJUST SO THAT WE CAN GROW THIS SPORT ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THE IMMENSE TALENT AVAILABLE COUNTRYWIDE.

Q: What is your view on the non-arrival of Khotso Mokoena and does SASCOC have the authority to act against him?
GS: THESE ATHLETES COST US A RETURN ON MEDALS. WE NEED ATHLETES THAT PUT COUNTRY FIRST AND THE POTENTIAL TO EARN SECOND. WE WILL LOOK INTO THE ISSUE AND IMPLEMENT WHATEVER IS NECESSARY, AND YES WE HAVE JURISDICTION OVER ALL OUR MEMBERS AT SASCOC.

Q: What do you believe has been learned in terms of the balance or imbalance of the selection criterion applied for the games?
GS: WE THINK THE ONE AREA FOR CONSIDERATION IS OBVIOUSLY THE CUT OFF POINT IN TERMS OF RANKING. LUCKILY IN THE OLYMPICS THE CRITERIA VARIES PER SPORT TYPE UNLIKE CWG WHICH NEEDED SOME MORE GENERIC CRITERIA. WE SHOULD ALSO PROBABLY LOOK AT ISSUES OF WHEN ONE IS REQUIRED TO PEAK IN THE SPORT TYPE VERSUS TIMING OF SATISFACTION OF CRITERIA.

Q: There has been criticism from the athletes that greater discretion and flexibility needs to be applied and that it is not as simple as whether or not an athlete is ranked in top four in the build-up to squad announcement. Will SASCOC be as rigid in their approach for London or will there be discretion as to when the potential medal winners will be required to peak in their various disciplines and is it a case of greater communication between the Federations and SASCOC over the next 18 months to ensure no one with a medal prospect is left behind?
GS: LIKE I SAID OLYMPIC GAMES ARE DIFFERENT ÔÇô THERE IS A CRITERIA PER SPORT AND THIS IS LOOKED AT AND SASCOC WILL ADJUST THE CRITERIA IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE NATIONAL FEDERATION AFTER WHICH THERE WILL BE A SIGN OFF OF THE AGREED CRITERIA. YES THERE WILL HAVE TO BE CONTINUOUS COMMUNICATION.

Q: On this note, SASCOC has said that they will only fully fund athletes that are top 5 in the world by the end of the year. Although our guys did well, their times don’t rank that well in the world, for instance: Chad’s 200 fly gold puts him 15th in the world, Roland’s 50 – 14th, 4×100 Medley relay 9th, Heerden Herman 1500 – 9th. Cameron is the best ranked SA swimmer with a 4th in the 100 breast. The support they’ve had so far has shown but they HAVE to expand the support. The potential is there but they can’t have such a narrow reach, and they coaches get none of the support. Graham Hill has nothing left in order to take Chad all the way. Coaches have to be looked after as well. What is SASCOC going to do when it comes to the coaches?
GS: WE ARE DUE TO HAVE A WORKSHOP WITH THE COACHES THAT HAVE ATHLETES ON OPEX AS WELL AS POTENTIAL ON THE 18 NOVEMBER AT WHICH WE HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL EXPERT FROM AUSTRALIA, WAYNE GOLDSMITH, WHO WILL TOGETHER WITH THE COACHES LOOK AT THE PATHWAY FOR THESE IDENTIFIED ATHLETES AND COACHES IN THE ENDEAVOUR TO ACHIEVE AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES.

Q: Swimming was the greatest example of how funding and the right talent identification can’t survive without each other. The Opex programme, into its third year, is being credited for the increase of the swimming achievement and, if so, how can more funds be made available through government and corporate South Africa support?
GS: WE ARE ENGAGING WITH GOVERNMENT AND THE CORPORATE SECTOR TO UNLOCK THESE MUCH SOUGHT AFTER FUNDS.

Q: Swimming’s achievement in getting 16 medals from a squad of 15 must rank as the greatest positive. As a former President of Swimming SA, it has to please you but how does SASCOC ensure the momentum in swimming is not lost between now and London 2012.

GS: THIS WILL BE ADDRESSED AT THE 18 NOVEMBER WORKSHOP.


Q: You continue to be applauded and derided for making it a goal of 12 medals in 2012. Some continue to interpret that as 12 gold medals, but you have always said it is 12 medals that have been targeted. Is it possible after what you have seen in Delhi, given that Melbourne 2006 produced 38 squad medals and two years later that translated into 1 medal in Beijing.
GS: IT IS ALWAYS GOOD TO HAVE TARGETS AND YES IT IS STILL POSSIBLE. WE NOW NEED TO IDENTIFY THE 4 OR 5 SPORTS WHERE WE HAVE THESE TALENTED ATHLETES AND FOCUS ALL OUR RESOURCES ON THESE FOR THE RETURN OF OUR TARGET.

Q: You are entering your third year and you’ve experienced a Youth Olympics and Commonwealth Games. Is it realistic to expect SA to host the 2020 Olympics Games and do you believe the country has an Olympic and Commonwealth Multi-Sport type culture in terms of support for codes that aren’t soccer, rugby and cricket?
GS: IT WILL BE A SERIOUS CHALLENGE TO HOST THE 2020 OLYMPIC GAMES BUT IT CAN BE DONE AS WE SHOWED IN THE FIFA WORLD CUP. HOWEVER THE AWARENESS ISSUE HAS TO BE ADDRESSED AS WELL AND MOST IMPORTANTLY WE NEED AN INJECTION OF HUGE RESOURCES TO HELP PREPARE OUR ATHLETES TO PERFORM IN 2020.

Q: There was criticism Team SA was too white in Delhi. Do you agree with this sentiment and what is the implication for London 2012 selection?
GS: YES IT WAS DOMINATED BY ONE SECTION OF OUR POPULATION, BUT THIS WAS THE BEST WE HAVE IN THE COUNTRY AMONG ALL SOUTH AFRICANS AND THE SITUATION WILL PROBABLY BE THE SAME FOR LONDON 2012. NATIONAL SQUADS ARE MERIT SELECTIONS AND THERE WON’T BE ANY FREE RIDES. WE NEED NATIONAL FEDERATIONS TO CREATE THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE PEOPLE IN OUR COUNTRY SO THAT ALL CAN STRIVE TO EXCEL.

Q: Is it SASCOC’s responsibility to transform with non negotiable quota selections or is it SASCOC’s responsibility to put in place measures at Federation level that have to be achieved?
GS: MAYBE IT IS TIME FOR SASCOC TO PUT IN PLACE MEASURES AT FEDERATION LEVEL TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE OF REPRESENTATIVE TEAMS ON MERIT SELECTION GOING FORWARD.

Q: Are you comfortable that you are on track to achieve the goals you first set out on election?
GS: OUR ACHIEVEMENTS THUS FAR IN THE TWO YEARS SHOWS TREMENDOUS SUCCESS IN MANY OF THE SIX AREAS IDENTIFIED AND WE ARE ON TRACK TOWARDS 12 BY 2012.


4 comments
Track Enthusiast
Track Enthusiast

FOR YOUR INFORMATION: November 10 - A group of 28 athlete/coach pairings identified as potential future medal winners will receive help in the coming funding cycle as part of the UK Athletics Futures Programme. Athletes and their coaches will be supported in their individual development plans, allowing for more flexibility and individual discretion around distribution of resources. Included on the programme are British junior duo and cross country specialists Emelia Gorecka (pictured) and Jonathan Hay, who are both coached by Mick Woods. EXTRACTED FROM www.insidethegames.biz Future potential and tagging the coaches who work with these athletes are part of the process to future success. Often the guys that nuture that talent are forgotten - I am not referring to the trip but the support and the incentives for them to continue serving the sport. Only a handful of coaches in SA are professional coaches and can make a career of it. The rest are volunteers. The results we are achieving is mostly through volunteer work but the volunteers are never celebrated. They return to society to motivate themselves to unearth new talent or we lose them to the industry. Track Enthusiast

Track Enthusiast
Track Enthusiast

A word of advice to GS - next time take the opportunity to understand your individual sports better. England, Nigeria and even India selected athletes that didn't even feature on the top of ranking lists and they excelled. Ranking lists mean absolutely nothing. Take a look at the medals won at Olympics in athletics and swimming in the past by South Africans and it will give you insight. I realise what you are trying to achieve but it is a rather simplistic approach. You cannot simply take the top ranked sportsmen and women with no consideration to what the true interpretation of the statistics are (in this case the rankings that you so keenly live by). If you look at swimming after the Commonwealth there were some swimmers that were left at home that went on to shine at the FINA Championships. Those are your fringe swimmers that could post a surprise in 2012 just like Chad le Clos who came from nowhere to outshine Schoeman an company. To make matters worse in athletics which has been the most successsful sport you reduced the team to 11 athletes even after the signs of the African Championships where SA lost the top spot for the first time in years by reducing the team depite having athletes that met the standards set and had also proven that they can win medals. If you look at the African countries that challenged us at the Games you will notice that they won medals in athletics events. We left behind easily another 12-16 athletes that were medal potentials (this includes swimming). Swimming and athletics are your most successful medal winners so don't find yourself looking back after the 2012 games thinking that you could have selected a few more athletes to increase your chance of getting medals. It isn't easy to admit it when you are wrong but you have a lot more to gain by learning from the mistakes... you have time to fix it.

Gideon Sam
Gideon Sam

Dear Peter Thank you for the note and I look forward to meeting with you. If you call Neria at the Sascoc offices, she will assist you to set up the meeting.

Peter B. Ngcobo
Peter B. Ngcobo

Hi Gideon, My name is Peter Ngcobo, President of Soweto Street Beat Inc. We are base in Atlanta GA USA. 1992-1996 I was selected as South Africa Olympic Adviser for 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games, provided the leadership, development and information about South Africa. Next year i would like to meet you to dicuss the future of South African in Olympic Games. Thank you Peter B Ngcobo - Pres. Soweto Street Beat Inc. 404-587-7792