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‘SA must make smart selections’

By Gareth Duncan
in Boksburg

IOC executive member Sam Ramsamy believes SASCOC and South Africa’s national federations need to be stricter with their selection process for the Olympics.

During his talk on day one of the second annual coaching framework conference on Friday, Ramsamy supported his argument with Africas success in London this year.

A total of 53 African nations competed at the Games, but only 10 won medals.

South Africa were the No 1 African nation on the medals tables in 23rd place, winning three gold, two silver and one bronze.

Ethiopia (second in Africa and 24th overall) and Kenya (third in Africa and 28th overall) finished closely behind, but they won more medals. Ethiopia earned seven (including three gold) and Kenya claimed 11 podium finishes (including two gold).

Ramsamys main argument was that both these countries sent smaller squads than South Africa, who had the biggest team from the African continent in London.

Ethiopia had a 34-man team that competed in two codes, while Kenya had 49 athletes who competed across four codes. South Africa had 134 athletes who took part in 20 codes.

We need to be more selective. And this is not entirely SASCOCs fault, said Ramsamy. Our national federations are happy with the fact that their athletes are competing at the Olympics. Parents are proud that their child has earned the honour to wear the Protea.

But this sort of mentality needs to cease.

We need to send athletes who will be medal contenders. We need athletes who will be qualifying for semi-finals and finals of their respective events.

Ramsamy went on to point out that the national federations picked 51 elite athletes who were expected to qualify for London. However, only 24 athletes in that group qualified.

We need to take things to the next level, he said. Our focus should be at school level. If we broaden the grass root levels, more top athletes will come through the ranks and we will earn more success.

We need to identify talent, but we also need to develop them. Talent is not enough they need hard and the right attitude. This is where our coaches have a big role to play.

Look at [100m and 200m world champion] Usain Bolt. He was identified at school level and proved to be very talented from a young age. But he found out during his first senior Olympics in Athens in 2004 [where he was knocked in the first round] that he still needed work. With the necessary coaching and help, he went on to be a great athlete.