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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Athletes need financial assistance from Sascoc & ASA to perform at Tokyo 2021 - Samaai

Because he is a medal contender for Team SA heading into The Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Ruswahl Samaai continued training throughout the festive season. After being postponed last year due to the Coronavirus, the Olympics will take place in Tokyo, Japan, in July. And the 29-year-old long jump star has doubled his efforts to prepare for the big global sporting celebration. "I am surviving, pushing, and coping in these difficult times. I never stopped training in December and kept going because I have a goal to achieve. It is a big season for me. It's an Olympic year, and I know that I will come back from the Games with a medal," said Samaai.

Samaai in action during the 2019 Diamond League. Photo Credit: Ruswahl Samaai.

Samaai is not one to shy away from voicing his opinion, and he did not waste time to call on the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, and Athletics South Africa to put athletes first. "It's been a tough year for everyone, but I am calling on Sascoc and ASA to support the athletes this year. You can't worry about off the track things and still expect to win. We need financial support from Sascoc. They have to come on board and assist us to perform. They must help us with resources, and we will be able to perform," pleaded Samaai.

The 2017 IAAF long jump bronze medalist said Sascoc expects medals from athletes, but are reluctant to support them. He said he is tired of administrative infighting and wants to see action. " We have an elected board, and it is time to put the focus on the athletes, the stars of the show. I'm not talking for myself, but the rest of the athletes," he said.

Samaai (right) on the podium with compatriot and gold medalist Luvo Manyoga (centre) after winning bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Photo Credit: Ruswahl Samaai.

The Paarl-born jumper believes he is ready to deliver on his promise of finishing on the podium this time around. The African champion has a score to settle in the Land of the Rising Run following his disappointing debut in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016 where he failed to make the final. " Am I a medal prospect? Yes, I am. There is pressure on me, but I can cope with it. At 29, this could be my last chance to push for a podium finish at the Olympics," explained Samaai.

The 2016 SA long jump champ was also the reigning African champion going into the first South American Olympic Games but he did not live up to expectations. He got injured, and his Games ended in tears five years ago. He said he would not rest until he medals at the highest level. " 2020 took its toll on everyone, but I am ready to go again and test myself against the world's best," said an optimistic Samaai.

Samaai receiving his sponsored Ford Ranger. Photo Credit: Ruswahl Samaai.

ASA announced its 2021 calendar in December, and Samaai is looking forward to the SA Senior Track and Field Championships taking place in Pretoria in April, which will be an important stepping stone toward reaching his goal of winning an Olympic medal. "SA champs is a big thing for me. I want to stay healthy and prepare for that event." But a lot has changed in the last year. The series of lockdowns that have swept across the globe have meant little to no fans are allowed at sports stadia.

Samaai won an event in Sweden with no spectators at the stadium in August 2020. He said fans are important because they push him to do well, but would accept it if ASA were to stage the event without fans. " We did it with no spectators in Europe, and only coaches, media, and athletes got allowed into the stadiums. But you are still required to perform as an athlete. There are no excuses. But it is a new normal, and we have to learn to adapt to new things. We train alone, and we have to get used to competing alone," added Samaai.

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