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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Thugwane urges former athletes to contest ASA elections

SA marathon icon Josia Thugwane is pleading with former athletes to put their names forward and contest the upcoming Athletics South Africa (ASA) elections. But he is against the idea of ASA president Aleck Skhosana running for a second term. He made it clear that he is not happy with the work done by the outgoing ASA board. The Atlanta 1996 Olympic hero gave his views about the upcoming elections touching on ASA president Skhosana’s bid for a second term and Olympic silver medalist Khotso Mokoena’s desire to win a place on the board.

Thugwane poses at the finish of the 2015 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. The Olympic gold medalist believes more former athletes should enter administration. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

“During our days the board used to fight for athletes and put them first. It is completely different these days. I would like to see the 10km and 15km races make a return to the provinces and winners getting paid reasonable prize money and not R200. The winners must be paid at least R10 000 as they are things such as petrol and transport to consider. The old board used to spend time looking for sponsors to make the sport exciting, but today they spend a lot of time dressed in suits and campaigning for power. I would die a happy man if the sport were in safe hands. To be honest SA athletics is on the decline,” Thugwane Told the Top Runner.

Thugwane pictured with the youngsters of the Middelburg-based Nkangala Athletic Academy at the 2018 SA 10km Championships in Mpumalanga. Thugwane says the newly elected ASA board must focus on development. Photo Credit: Emmanuel Mabaso.

Although Skhosana has not publicly confirmed his ambitions to run for a second term, insiders suggest he is keen to have a second bite at the cherry and according to the ASA's constitution, as a current board member he would receive an automatic nomination to challenge for the presidency. However, the first black man to win an Olympic gold medal for South Africa says its high time athletes are put first and would therefore like to see a change in the sport's leadership. Thugwane, who is not the one to shy away from voicing his opinion, is pushing for fresh faces with a new mandate. He warned about the danger of letting politicians run the sport alone, while the people who know the sport better are not part of the newly elected board.

"It’s good that Mokoena has indicated his desire to challenge for a place on the board. He is young, knowledgeable and he has been there and done that. Although, I do not have anything against Skhosana. I think that 10 years is too much. You cannot have someone leading the athletics federation for 10 years. Nevertheless, it is up to the provinces to vote for him or not. I would like to see the board elect a different leader," said the 49-year old. "But my advice to the voters during the elections is not to vote for smooth talkers, but for administrators that want to take the sport forward. We have heard all these empty promises before. The job of the board is to go out there and look for sponsors to better the sport,” said Thugwane.

Despite his outspokenness, the winner of the Honolulu and Fukuoka Marathons hopes the polls will be run in a spirit of sportsmanship without any bad blood between rivals. “We’ve seen dirty tricks and all sorts of nasty fights in the past. I hope the elections will go smoothly," he said.Thugwane added that the ASA's big problem is the lack of development and that it expects athletes to thrive at the Olympics knowing that it enforced a stop-start season this year. "We will not have a new Thugwane if they continue to operate like this. Bring back the 10km and 15km races and pay big money for them. You cannot expect runners to graduate to a marathon without excelling in the smaller races first," added Thugwane. The elections will take place at the Southern Sun Hotel in Kempton Park on 8 May. The deadline for nominations and recommendations is 11 April.

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