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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Mokganyetsi calls for calm as athletes gatvol of ASA

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

As the debate rages on about Athletics South Africa's decision to postpone it's events until February and athletes grow increasingly frustrated, 3-time Olympian Hendrick Mokganyetsi is calling for patience. Last week 2-time SA 5000m champion Gladwin Mzazi denounced ASA's decision questioning why athletics could not go on because of Covid-19 while other professional sport continues. But Mokganyetsi has urged athletes to focus on training and keep themselves out of politics. "We cannot compare soccer and rugby with athletics. I plead with athletes to stand by the ASA's decision. They must continue to train and wait for the federation to open races again," said the 45-year old who now serves as the chairperson of the athlete's commission on the Gauteng North Athletics (AGN) board.

3-time Olympian Hendrick Mokganyetsi is pleading with athletes to be patient with ASA. Photo Credit: Mosibodi Whitehead Media.

"I know it is not easy, and I have seen and heard athletes voice their frustrations, but ASA made the decision, and we have to abide by it," he elaborates. The former 400m runner shares some of those frustrations because the lack of competition has made it difficult for some of the runners he coaches to qualify for the Olympic Games which are scheduled to kick off in July in Japan. The Mzansi athletics legend is clearly a man of many hats because in addition to being an administrator and having completed a degree in Business Administration at the Southern Business School last year, he is also a coach to 10 000m world student games champion Milton Kekana.

The modestly retired athlete and husband to Lesogo has an IAAF level 3 coaching qualification which he completed in Kenya. "Being a great athlete does not mean that you will turn into a great coach. You must get a coaching qualification and develop a passion for the job. I work with aspiring athletes at the Tshwane University of technology, and my job requires patience and tolerance. I also deal with athletes at AGN and know what it takes to make it or fail. At TUT, I am here exploring the talent of Milton Kekana and develop it so that he can become a great athlete," he explained.

Mokganyetsi congratulates his athlete Kekana after a race. Photo Credit: Athletics South Africa.

But in comparing the conditions today with those of his generation, Mokganyetsi seems to admit that the closure of competitions has come as a big blow to athletes for whom running is their primary source of income. " Today's athletics is about money. It's a business. In our time, it was about passion and the pride of representing your country. But all of that has changed now. You have to run in the colours of your running club to get a stipend," he said.

Mokganyetsi pictured at the 2018 ASA 10km Championships in Middleburg with running greats Josia Thugwane and Blanche Moila. Photo Credit: Mulalo Mammburu.

"We supported them with the Covid-19 relief fund last year," said the middle and long-distance coach. But how difficult is it to coach or work with athletes during the Covid-19 times? Moganyetsi said they do their planning virtually and motivates them through that platform. "We do everything via zoom. In training, we make sure that we comply with the regulations. We do social-distancing, wear a mask, and sanitize." His message to athletes is to keep on training and not to lose hope. "The opportunity to qualify for the Olympics will come, and I plead with the athletes to keep on training and to prepare for the Olympic year. Not all is lost," he added.

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