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Ramaala: I'll fix SA athletics

2009-10-29 16:04
Problem solver (File)

Johannesburg - South African marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala hopes to improve the state of athletics in the country once he retires.

Ramaala, who lines up for his eighth New York Marathon on Sunday in search of his second title, told runningtimes.com that politics had become too prominent in South African athletics and he intended mending problems within the sport's development structures after he retires.

"Once things slow down for me, maybe I’ll take these things seriously and get more involved," the 37-year-old qualified lawyer told the website.

"I can see where the problem is. I’ve spoken to a lot of athletes, commentators, and experts on what is needed.

"There are all these politics coming in, though. Nobody wants to hear the truth. It’s all about politics.

"You don’t need to run the federation to fix it. You don’t need to be in a powerful position to fix it.

"You just need to get a group of kids who have talent and promise and give them bread and butter, shelter, get them into a camp, let them train and promise them trips to America or Europe. After that, you will get support.

"In this country, you get rewarded for winning. The new talent doesn’t get spotted.

"In this country, you get spotted by winning a gold medal. How you got it is your business."

Athletics South Africa (ASA) are trying to claw their way out of the hole they dug for themselves when president Leonard Chuene and general manager Molatelo Malehopo admitting they had lied about gender tests conducted on 800 metres world champion Caster Semenya.

The Soweto Marathon on Sunday will be the last race sponsored by Nedbank after the banking giant terminated, a year early, its five-year contract to fund the ASA road running series.

And track and field sponsor Yellow Pages is still in talks with the federation about extending its contract which ended last season.

With the national federation facing a barrage of criticism on various matters including race organisation, which will again be tested on Sunday, Ramaala feels the athletes have been neglected, but believes a solution can be found to develop distance runners of the calibre of the East African powerhouses.

The veteran of four Olympic Games believes he has a few personal records left in him over the standard marathon distance, and told the website he planned to run the Comrades Marathon in the future but, when he does retire, Ramaala hopes to help develop young South African talent.

"We have all this talent, but do not know what to do with it," he told runningtimes.

"Our coaches are struggling and our athletes are struggling. You need a structure and a system.

"The runners need to know that, if they train, they will have shelter, accommodation, a place to sleep. Athletes must worry about training and performance and not what they are going to eat, the bread-and-butter issues."

To reach a performance level matching anything near the best Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, Ramaala said South African athletes need the support of structured training camps similar to those used in East Africa and the United States.

"We are paying for our system now. It’s time for us to play catch-up," he said.

"We have the talent and the infrastructure. The athletes just need support.

"It’s not going to happen right now. It takes three to four years just to make an athlete."

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