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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Verster urges ASA to reopen races

Athletics Central North West is waiting for Athletics South Africa (ASA) to give them the green light to host their first track meeting at the Puk McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom, later this month. President and renowned coach Jean Verster has already submitted their protocol and proposal letters to the country's athletics governing body. Last year, they hosted six safe and successful meetings that drew participants from all over the country.

ACNW say they are planning to host six meetings again this year, and they are hoping to host the first one on the 16th of February. But that depends on whether ASA have opened up races by then. All eyes will be on the ASA president Aleck Skhosana and the board to see if they decide in favour of resuming competition after they suspended races nationally two weeks ago due to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that had gripped the country. But state President Cyril Ramaphosa eased the lockdown restrictions on Monday, while CoronaVirus infections are on the decline. ASA will only review its decision on Sunday, and athletes, coaches, and administrators are waiting anxiously for them to make an announcement.

Verster puts a young athlete through her paces. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

Verster said all eyes are on the national federation. "We are waiting for ASA to make the decision. But I still do not understand why they enforced a two-week shutdown. It makes no sense to me," said a disappointed Verster. "It is a stressful period for everybody in the country. The juniors want to qualify for the world junior championships, and the seniors are focusing on the Olympic Games. But ASA's stop-start approach frustrates everybody. ASA is breaking the momentum of athletes. We had six successful meetings, and we pulled it off. We did everything by the book, and I did not see the need to suspend races," explained the man who once coached Caster Semenya.

Verster said they would not have more than 100 athletes at the stadium for their meetings. "We are waiting for ASA to give us the green light. The 16th of February is the date that we want to host the first meetings. But it will all depend on ASA. We are waiting for them to review their decision. We have written to them about our plans, protocols, and safety measure," he said.

Jean Verster being interviewed after winning the 2017 SA Sports Awards coach of the year award. Photo Credit: Mosibodi Whitehead Media.

The 2017 SA Sports Awards coach of the year said it would be a tragedy if ASA does not open the races again, especially during an Olympic year. "It will be a disaster if they do not open. The two-week suspension is hurting athletes, and this could hurt them during an Olympic year," Verster told The Top Runner. ASA sent a circular to all the provinces to inform them about their plan to review their decision. Verster said Sunday is D-day and that the ball is in ASA's court. "I hope there will be good news on the 7th. We have proved that we can host successful meetings. We've gained experience from last year. The matter is in ASA's hands, and all that we can do now is to wait. I urge the athletes to keep on training and wait for Sunday," added Verster.

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