Columns 25.8.2016 06:09 am

We must support our athletes

Kekeletso Nakeli-Dhliwayo

Kekeletso Nakeli-Dhliwayo

They are expected to perform to the best of their abilities, but government lets them down.

Sunette Viljoen, for those who don’t know, is a javelin silver medallist. She is a champion in her own right. She went on Twitter yesterday to slam “Father Christmas’s” bonuses for Olympic achievements.

It seems the media spectacle displayed by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula is exactly that: a spectacle. The performance was impressive, but I bet the athletes struggle to see the money promised to them in front of flashing cameras and media houses.

They are expected to perform to the best of their abilities, but government lets them down. It must be hard being an athlete in South Africa. But if Sunette’s allegations of no support ahead of the Games by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee are true, then the sporting ministry might be toying with the hopes and ambitions of our athletes and the nation.

We all want to see our country’s representatives do well on the international stage. So, what’s really happening to the donations made for sports development in this country? And more importantly, will we still have sportsmen and women if this is how we are treating them?

For some township children, sport is their dream and an opportunity to reach for the stars. Why are we allowing maladministration, misappropriation of funds and, possibly, the neglect of the athletes? Is it because we forget about the athletes until they have to compete on the same stage as the Bolts of this world? Is it because they don’t get as much coverage in media as their soccer, rugby and crickets counterparts because their sporting codes are not as highly regarded as the others?

Will we only remember the Sunette Viljoens and others in Team SA when the next Olympics are around the corner?

South Africa needs to catch a wake-up. I’m glad Viljoen spoke about the mistreatment athletes get. Now we have the obligation to stand behind them as they fight for better treatment by the sports bodies that govern our sporting codes.

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