Friday, 14 July 2017 12:06

‘Aus Aths Rising’ says President Mark Arbib

On Twitter, I often use the hashtag #ausathsrising because it's easy to see the great progress our sport and athletes are making at home and on the world stage.

On the eve of competition getting underway in London for the World Para Athletic Championships, I believe this rise of Australian athletics will continue to build with growing member participation and outstanding competitive results, as we pick up momentum into our home Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
In the coming weeks, Team Australia will compete at four championship events, with 37 para-athletes to do battle at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from later this evening, before 23 take to the field of play at the Commonwealth Youth Games. More than 45 athletes will then don the green and gold at the IAAF World Championships and an impressive 49 will compete alongside the Australian Uniroos at the Summer Universiade.

We were also proud to send a team of more than 100 to the recent Oceania Athletics Championships in Fiji, an event commendably delivered by the Oceania Athletics Association.
The ability to select such large and strong teams for global competition is testament to the efforts of our athletes, their coaches, family and friends and, the support provided by our High Performance Program and the network of national and state institutes/academies of sport.
This exciting period of action ahead follows what has been an inspiring 2017 for Australian athletics.

The year began with Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne, a game-changing three-event series that welcomed five national teams including Australia, England, China, New Zealand and Japan and one international team led by the one-and-only Usain Bolt.
Nitro Athletics captivated the nation, with an impressive 1-million-person reach on free-to-air coverage on the Seven Network, complementing the more than 24,000 people that came through the gates of Lakeside Stadium to take in the action live.
Our colleagues from across the world were also enthralled.

The IAAF President, Lord Sebastian Coe, declared to reputable online athletics publication Spikes that Nitro Athletics is “a great example of what can be done and what needs to be done to revolutionise how we present our sport and how our fans connect with the sport and the athletes.”
Our expectation is that Nitro Athletics will continue to deliver for Australian athletics, with increased commercial revenue, renewed interest in the cornerstone sport of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and continued profile for the next generation of track and field stars.

The 2017 Australian Athletics Championships were also ground-breaking.
For the first time, able-bodied and para-athletes aged under 14 through to open came together to compete as one at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre.
More than 3000 participants took part in the pinnacle of domestic athletics competition and the precinct became home to Australian track and field for eight outstanding days.
The mission of Australian athletics is to be OneSport, committed to building Australia’s largest and most active participation base and to support our athletes to reach their full potential.

Our purpose is to improve the health, social, wellbeing and performance outcomes of Australians through their involvement in walking, running, jumping and throwing.
Athletics Australia, in conjunction with our hardworking Member Associations, continue to build solid working relationships with Little Athletics Australia, Australian Masters Athletics and parkrun, ensuring a pathway for those participating in the sport from their initial interaction through to retirement.
Together we are collaborating to ensure the provision of conventional and complementary athletics programs and events to the largest possible number of participants.

Australian athletics also continues to grow our presence in the school environment, with 52,169 primary school aged students taking part in the Australian Sports Commission funded Sporting Schools Program.
This is enhanced via our efforts to expand the presence of Australian athletics in the recreational running space.
The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, Seven Sunshine Coast Half Marathon and Sunday Mail City-Bay Fun Run will host the Australian Marathon, Half Marathon and Road Running Championships respectively in 2017, while our partnership with parkrun moves from strength to strength as that organisation serves as a gateway to recreation running and walking and our outstanding athletics clubs.

The AusPlay Survey recently published by the Australian Sports Commission identifies athletics, including runners and joggers, as the sport with the largest participation base.
Our challenge is to engage with this more than three-million strong cohort who, at a rate of 74%, declare their greatest motivation for being involved as their physical and mental health and fitness.
Australian athletics is also committed to giving back to our community.
Athletics for the Outback has expanded its reach in 2017 thanks to a new partnership with GE, ensuring our ability to deliver several new engagement experiences for Indigenous Australians and additional community tours to some of the nation’s most remote locations.

Our intention is to continue to show leadership in this area. Indigenous athletes have helped shape our sport and the Australian Olympic landscape. Our partnership works to ensure all Australians have access to the opportunities in life they deserve.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games are now on the horizon and the opportunities presented by a major competition like this on home soil are invaluable.
In the coming days, we will announce the national athletics calendar for the 2017-2018 Australian Athletics Season. We encourage your engagement with what will be an exciting time to participate.

Impressively, 70 athletes have already staked their claim to be nominated for selection by achieving the Commonwealth Games ‘A’ Standard.
This number will grow as competition at the London 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships begins and I extend my best wishes to our athletes.
Australia and our athletics family will be cheering you on.

Athletics stars snub Universiade

Olympic champions Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya were yesterday provisionally omitted from South Africa's World Student Games team, with the University Sport SA president saying she was disappointed in them.

"As of yesterday Wayde, Caster and Akani Simbine had not confirmed their participation," Ilhaam Groenewald said at the announcement of the team in Pretoria. "I'm very disappointed."

She said there was still time to add them to the roster of about 130 competitors across 10 codes who would represent the country in Taipei, Taiwan, from August 19-30.

Groenewald said the trio had qualified at the university championships earlier in the year, adding that their presence would lift the team into the top 10 of the medals table at the Games, also known as the Universiade.

"The only gold medal [Van Niekerk] doesn't have is a Universiade gold.

"We really hope they change their minds," said Groenewald, who pointed out that many past stars had competed at this biennial showpiece, including Penny Heyns in 1997, the reigning Olympic 100m and 200m breaststroke champion at the time.

With her that year was Marius Corbett, who had just won the men's world javelin crown.

Other stars who have competed include Hezekiel Sepeng, Sunette Viljoen, Ryk Neethling, Llewellyn Herbert and Van Niekerk, who took a bronze in the 4x400m relay in 2013.

Van Niekerk, Semenya and Simbine are competing at the world championships starting in London August 4, with Van Niekerk and Simbine hoping to finish on August10 and Semenya three days later. The World Student Games athletics starts on August 23.

Ruswahl Samaai, who participated at the Rio Games, will take part in London and Taipei games.

Other Olympians going to Taipei are Rynardt van Rensburg, Justine Palframan, Dominique Scott, Lynique Prinsloo and Anel Oosthuizen. Palframan, the Games' 400m defending champion, was named flag-bearer.

In the absence of Simbine, Thando Roto will attempt to secure South Africa's third straight 100m crown. Simbine won it two years ago, while Anaso Jobodwana lifted it in 2013 as he ran a rare 100m-200m double.

With 44 members, the athletics contingent is the largest. The men's and women's football teams numbering 40.

SA increase medal tally at U18 champs

It was a rollercoaster day for the South African youth team on Thursday, though they experienced more highs than lows, earning two more medals to increase their tally to four on the second day of the IAAF World U-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the Boys Javelin Throw final, Johannes Schlebusch produced the performance of his fledgling career, bagging the silver medal with a career best heave of 75.68m.

Fellow South African athlete Joshua Maas struggled to mount a challenge, however and after delivering a first-round throw of 59.55m, he was unable to make the midway cut.

Earlier, in the Boys Shot Put final, Jonathan de Lacey Lacey was also in the shape of his life, securing a bronze medal with a 19.93m Personal Best, just seven centimetres short of second place.

"I'm surprised and excited to win a bronze medal. I didn't expect to do well here because I didn't have a good preparation prior to the final," said De Lacey Lacey, who will turn out again in the Discus Throw qualifying round on Friday. "I expect another medal in the Discus Throw, though, because I will put in the same effort."

There was disappointment for versatile athlete Julian Bogner in the Boys Long Jump final. He was in third ahead of the last round with a 7.40m leap, but Andreas Bucsa of Romania snatched the bronze medal with a 7.47m final jump and the South African had to settle for fourth position.

Sprinter Rose Xeyi did well to reach the Girls 100m final, finishing seventh in 12.01. While compatriot Joviale Mbisha had set a Personal Best of 11.99 in the semifinals, she finished fifth in her race and was unable to progress to the medal contest.

Meanwhile, in preliminary rounds, Sokwakhana Zazini coasted to a convincing victory in his 400m Hurdles heat, booking his place as the firm favourite for Saturday's final.

Zazini, who set a world youth best of 48.84 in Pretoria in March, clocked 49.63. He was more than two seconds faster than the next fastest qualifier in the opening round.

Earlier in the morning session, Zeney van der Walt won her 400m Hurdles heat in 59.60 to book her place in the final, to be held on Saturday.

Though Gontse Morake got off to a great start in her heat, she faded down the home straight and finished fourth in 1:00.59 and could not proceed.

In the opening round of the Girls Hammer Throw, Tharina van der Walt launched a 63.10m to qualify for the final, also taking place on Saturday.

Bogner kept his medal hopes alive, ending third in his 110m Hurdles heat in 14.12 to progress safely though to Friday's semifinals.

Though Roelof van der Walt was quicker in his heat, crossing the line in 13.97, he finished fourth and was eliminated ahead of the penultimate round.

After two days of competition, the SA team are in second overall on the table with four medals (one gold, two silver and one bronze).

SA shows depth ahead of London

Athletics SA (ASA) yesterday gave indication of track and field hopefuls who have provisionally booked their berths for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in London next month.

As expected, Rio Olympics medalists - Wayde van Niekerk (400m), Luvo Manyonga (long jump), Caster Semenya (800m) and Sunette Viljoen (javelin) - headline the 22-member preliminary team.

Other athletes with world championships experience such as Akani Simbine (100m) and Khotso Mokoena (long jump) have also made the team, so is rising sprinter Clarence Munyai who is set to debut at the senior global track and field meeting.

Mokoena is among the four jumpers who have qualified but only three will make it to London as per the required quota than can be entered per country in each event.

Other local athletes, meanwhile, have until July 23 to breach the ASA A-qualifying standard, which is tougher than that set by the IAAF.

At most, hopefuls must record their personal best marks in their respective events to stand any chance of making the final team by the cut-off date.

ASA is also crossing fingers to have a relay team at the championships.

The federation is hopeful that the 4x100m men's relay team will make it as one of the eight nations to go with the eight that have already qualified at the World Relays in April.

ASA president Aleck Skhosana has encouraged athletes to work hard to get into the team.

"There is still a chance for anybody who wants to represent South Africa at this global premier event," Skhosana said.

The world championships will be held from August 4 to 13.