Mphahlele and Sibiya to pace as ASA give Mashele and Mathanga one last chance to qualify
Newly elected Athletics South Africa (ASA) President James Moloi is adamant that athletics will emerge as one of the best sporting codes from South Africa's #Tokyo2021 Olympic performance. Since readmission from sporting isolation in 1992, athletics has produced 14 of Team SA's 35 medals, which is matched only by swimming. And in a last ditch effort to ensure that he sends his strongest team, Moloi has given the go ahead for the organisation of a final track meet to give Precious Mashele and Mbuleli Mathanga their very last opportunity to qualify for The Games.
"To be honest, our team is very strong," he told #TheTopRunner on the sidelines of the launch of the new 24-hour SABC Sport channel. "Ninety percent of our team are in Europe, while some of the members who still have to qualify before the 29th (June), they are going to qualify," said Moloi.
Mashele and Mathanga have both set new personal bests over twelve and a half laps of the track this season and their chance to be part of the team going to Japan will come on the day of the qualification deadline. On Tuesday KwaZulu Natal Athletics (KZNA) will host a 5000m race in Durban which conditions permitting, will present a golden opportunity for the-man-of-the-distance-running-moment Mashele to nail the qualification time he missed by just 5 seconds in Cape Town a fortnight ago.
ASA are pulling out all the stops to make certain that Mashele in particular hits the 13:13 needed to book his ticket to Tokyo. Organisers have roped in 2019 SA 1500m champion Ryan Mphahlele to do the pacemaking duties assisted by Nkosinathi Sibiya (the reigning SA 1500m champ) and Tumelo Machaba.
Even in the absence of Caster Semenya who is looking more and more like she will miss the qualification cutoff, Moloi remains bullish about his team's odds in The Land of The Rising Sun. Following world record holder Wayde van Niekerk's late qualification in the 400m a week ago and the possibility of Mashele joining him in two days, Moloi is supremely confident that ASA will send an Olympic team that will bring back medals.
"In terms of athletics, South Africa is going to surprise a lot of people. I'm hundred percent sure of that. We might get one or two or three medals, which will be a surprise for a lot people," he concluded.