ASA Grand Prix Series is great opportunity for athletes to qualify without going to Europe - Sepeng
Having competed at the very highest level of global athletics, Hezekiel Sepeng believes that the newly introduced ASA Grand Prix Series is exactly what South Africa needs in order to produce more world class performers. While they are a step down from the World Athletics Continental Tour meets available in countries such as Kenya and Botswana, the short and sharp track and field meets put on by Athletics South Africa (ASA) in March and April will give local athletes the opportunity to earn valuable ranking points without having to travel to Europe. And this pleases Sepeng.
"I think this is great," said Sepeng speaking at the first event which took place in Bloemfontein on Wednesday. "We've seen World Athletics introduce the Continental Tour - gold, silver and bronze - which started last year. Kenya has got gold and Botswana has got bronze. For us in South Africa to have the Challenger which is the one that is underneath the bronze, is good for the athletes. Gone are those days where athletes had to depend on Europe especially when it comes to world rankings," said the Olympic medalist who now works as ASA's Excellence Manager.
It's good news for more than just South African athletes as more participants from the SADC region especially are expected to take part in the series of five meets, the next of which takes place at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town on Wednesday 23 March. Already, Olympic 200m silver medalist Christine Mboma of Namibia was in Bloemfontein where she scorched to an 11.15 100m clocking - the second fastest time of 2022.
"The first one is always difficult, but the good thing is that we've done it before. We had invitational meetings and a Grand Prix Series in 2018. But it's not an easy process to get the athletes together because this is not like Europe. In Europe transportation is easy. For us, the athletes are depending on us to fund their trip as opposed to Europe one can fund his/her own trip to go to any competition around Europe. But in South Africa most of the things we have to do as a national federation," he explained.
Logistical challenges aside, the man who took silver in the 800m at Atlanta 1996 remains upbeat about the quality of competition that athletics lovers can expect to watch on SuperSport. "800 will always be in my heart, but nowadays what makes me happy is to see sub 10 in the 100m. Akani (Simbine) and the guys have spoiled me. If somebody runs a sub10 then I feel good, I can go back home happy. Overall I'm looking for good competition from the athletes because this is the year where we've got World Champs, Commonwealth Games, African Champs so athletes need to qualify. I think these competitions offer athletes a great opportunity to qualify and they don't have to go to Europe. Faaya!" he laughed.