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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Covid-19 Good for Wayde - Jean Verster

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise for South African athletes. These are the words of respected coach and Athletics Central North West president Jean Verster. Verster, who coached big-name stars such as Caster Semenya, Nigel Amos, and Hezekiel Sepeng, said the virus played into Athletics South Africa's (ASA) hands. The 2017 SA Sports Awards coach of the year said the postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, due to the pandemic, gave SA athletics poster boy Wayde van Niekerk more time to get ready and return to the track.

Jean Verster being interviewed after winning the 2017 SA Sports Awards coach of the year award.

The Games which were due to happen in July have been moved to July 2021.

ASA announced their first Olympic preparation squad late last year and Verster said most of the athletes on the list needed more time to prepare for the Games. “The delay of the Olympic Games is in favour of South Africa. The Covid-19 pandemic played into ASA’s hands.The virus has given Wayde more time to work on his return, and Caster is still fighting her legal battle with IAAF and is using the postponement of the Games to buy more time and work on her strategy of fighting the world athletics body.  It’s one thing to lose Caster in an Olympic team, and losing Wayde would have been a disaster for ASA,” said Verster.

Verster was full of praise for the Olympic 400m record holder, who graced the ACNW first meeting in South Africa since lockdown on Tuesday. The Rio 2016 Olympian clocked 45.89 in the 400m at the Puk McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom. “Wayde is good, and he ran the fastest time in South Africa in the last three years. It’s not his best time, but he is slowly getting back to his best. At the rate that he is running, we will get another Olympic medal from him in Japan,” said Verster.

2015 SA Sportsman of the year Wayde van Niekerk flanked by fellow winners, his coach Tannie Ans Botha (right) and former Bafana Bafana coach Ephrahim Shakes Mashaba (left).

Verster said his federation is going to hold six meetings before the end of the year.

The first one took place on Tuesday. Every Tuesday night, athletes will compete in the home of athletics in Potch. “We have another meeting on the 10th, 17, 24 November and the first and 8th of December. We follow the Covid-19 regulations when we host our meetings,” he said.

A total of 200 athletes took part in the first meeting since ASA suspended the season in March. The events that were on display were 60m, 100m, 300m hurdles, hammer throw, long jump, and pole vault.

Competition-starved athletes from as far as Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, Joburg, Potchefstroom, and Free State got invited."There were no spectators. Only athletes, coaches, medical teams, and managers were allowed into the stadium. The weather played along, and the track looked beautiful. We have a limit of no more than 500 people inside the stadium. Everyone must wear musk, sanitize,” added Verster.     

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