Ramaala slams local clubs

2013-02-06 11:52

Johannesburg - Athletics South Africa (ASA) vice-president Hendrick Ramaala says he is concerned that runners at the South African Marathon Championships in Oudtshoorn last week failed to qualify for this year's IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia, in August.

A small field of 109 athletes completed the race, which was used as part of the selection process for the SA marathon team, with athletes chasing qualifying times of 2:17:00 for the men and 2:43:00 for the women.

Benedict Moeng won the men's race in a pedestrian time of 2:17:32, missing the qualifying mark by 32 seconds.

Cornelia Joubert, who won the women's event in 2:46:13, was more than three minutes outside the required time.

Ramaala bemoaned the current system used by local clubs and said proper support structures, geared towards producing runners who were able to compete at an international level and not only in local competitions, needed to be implemented before it was too late.

"The club system is not effective in producing world class runners," said Ramaala, who won the 2004 New York Marathon.

"The system is flawed because it does not focus on quality. They are more concerned about marketing their brands than pouring money into developing international runners.

“These days the focus for the clubs is the ultra distances, like the Comrades and Two Oceans marathons. Clubs are only interested in preparing runners for those races and that's a problem."

Ramaala said there were athletes in his training group who belonged to professional clubs and they were stepping up in distance too early.

"The dream should be to get to the World Championships and Olympics and not ultra-marathons."

Ramaala, who earned silver medals at the World Half Marathon Championships in 1998 and 1999, and holds the national records over 10 000m on the track and 21.1km on the road, said a lot of changes had been made on the domestic circuit in recent years, with the mining industry withdrawing its support of road running.

"Now runners are forced to work full time instead of focussing on running," he said.

"Most of the runners are based in the city and are frustrated. They are more concerned about bread and butter issues."

Ramaala believed changes needed to be implemented in South Africa before runners dropped further behind international standards.

He stressed that South Africa could learn from other countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia, who gave their athletes the support they needed.

Last year alone, 24 athletes from east African countries dipped under two hours, six minutes over the 42.2km standard marathon distance.

No South African has run under two hours, eight minutes since Ramaala clocked 2:07:44 at the 2009 London Marathon.

"We are not yet doomed. The talent is there but there is no support.

"What needs to happen is that runners must be looked after like back in the day, given basic support, getting the right coaches and introducing training camps that will focus on the Olympic distances.

"We need to train them here and then take them overseas, and they must be based that side, and that will get our runners to that international level, but no one is ready to foot that bill."

James Evans, the president of ASA, echoed Ramaala's feelings about a lack of support, but he was confident the sport could lift itself from its current slump.

"We are not as strong as we were 10 years ago, but our depth is building and we are confident that we can develop a strong group of runners in the years to come," Evans said.

"We as ASA are building the South African circuit to be a strong running circuit and are trying to partner with strong national events which we hope will add value to our country's runners."


  • JohnnyDee68 - 2013-02-06 14:20

    The club system does work in the sense that it brings promising athletes into the system, but most clubs, on their own, simply don't have the resources required to develop them into world class athletes. The onus should then be on the federations to identify and develop this talent.

  • johan.grassman - 2013-02-06 17:36

    Also agree that the clubs are good in getting runners to run but, to go any further than winning local races where runners must train and support themselves, it is imperative that the necessary support filters down from the top. Does ASA, or its provincial bodies, even have any "talent scouts" at any local races to identify potential national athletes? I think not. Does anybody at ASA, or its provincial bodies, have any record they use EFFECTIVELY of race results over the country?? Again, I think not. I agree with Hendrick but, I think, one should look further than just blaming the club system and rather blame the absence of the system that is supposed to support our clubs.

  • val.brentano - 2013-02-07 23:16

    Great ideals, but the athletes here are not being paid their race winnings at ASA races. Some athletes have not yet been paid their winnings from May last year. How does Hendrik see that athletes who are not being paid their winnings (by the national body) can pay food rent etc ? As Vice President of ASA he needs to sort this out.

      tshepisobelinda.makgaka - 2013-02-08 16:36

      Im glad that MR ramaala is concern about athletes. Because now it is south african season than you are concern but all along do you pay the athletes on time or encourage them to run. if you really cared about them you would have a sponsor for them that pays them every month

  • solly.beyi - 2013-02-11 07:16

    I agree with some of the statement from Mr Ramala. ASA should come up with strategies to lure back companies back into athletics. It is disturbing to hear athletes are not not paid on time their winnings. what example is ASA sending to the clubs?

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