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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Schools athletics in good shape' - ASA and SASA celebrate success at U18 & U20 African Champs

That South Africa failed to obtain an athletics medal at #Tokyo2021 for this first time in the country’s post-Apartheid Olympic history, is by no means a poor reflection on the strength of schools athletics. To understand just how vibrant and competitive schools athletics is in this corner of Africa, one need only glance at the results of the recently concluded CAA U18 & U20 AFRICAN CHAMPS.

Team SA at the OR Tambo International Airport after bagging 66 medals. Photo Credit: Cecilia van Bers.

Team South Africa dominated the event which took place in Zambia’s northern city of Ndola finishing top of the medals table with a total of 66 medals (33 golds, 19 silvers and 14 bronze). That is almost double the number earned by second-placed Nigeria and scores more than global athletics powerhouses Kenya who took third, could amass.

“I’m excited!” said Chef de mission Sabata Khumalo who serves on the board of Athletic South Africa (ASA). “The performance was of a high standard. I’m proud of our youngsters. The succession with ASA is working and these are our future champions,” he told #TheTopRunner when the team landed at the OR Tambo International Airport yesterday afternoon.

Tumi Ramokgopa celebrates in Ndloa after winning the U18 Girls 100m and 400m hurdles. Photo Credit: Supplied.

In the U18 category, Tumi Ramokgopa added the 400m hurdles title to the gold she won in the 100m hurdles earlier at the continental championships, while Alicia Khunou also took two gold medals when she won the U18 girls shot put and discus throw. Temoso Masikane produced a standout performance, breaking his own national U18 record in the long jump with a leap of 8.06m to claim the gold medal. In the U20 age group, Ashley Erasmus won the both women's shot put and discus throw events, as Wernich van Rensburg and Anje Nel secured titles in the men's and women's 400m hurdles finals.

Khumalo who is also the president of the South African School Athletics (SASA) believes that dominance of the country’s junior athletes on the continental stage can be attributed to the close working relationship that his body and ASA enjoy.

Sabata Khumalo says the close working relationship between SASA and ASA is what has led to this success. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

“We are an associate member of ASA and I’m also serving on the ASA Track and Field Commission as well as being a technical official for ASA. So I’m bringing all these things to fit in to the schools because at schools we can’t do it alone. We can only identify talent and then hand it over to ASA for high performance to shape them and make it the best. So schools should not try and take over ASA’s responsibility of high performance and rather focus on talent identification and mass participation.”

The roles are clear then. With schools having done their part, it is now up to ASA to ensure that #LA2028 yields better results than #Tokyo2021 with one or two of these youngsters going on to the podium during the next Olympic cycle. ASA President James Moloi agrees. “To say I'm happy that our team won the Championship, would be an understatement. We are proud and we can perhaps be allowed to celebrate it as a major achievement and as a super indicator of great things to come from these young athletes.”

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