No return to action for Zim athletes in SA

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JOHANNESBURG. — A number of South Africa-based Zimbabwean middle and long-distance male and female runners will remain idle for quite some time after Athletics South Africa opted against a return to competition despite the government approving the return of non-contact sports.

A number of Zimbabwe’s top road-runners, including Olympian Rutendo Nyahora, Fortunate Chidzivo and Rudo Mhonderwa,  are now plying their trade in South Africa.

They have been making names for themselves for the past couple of years but they haven’t been able to compete since March this year following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus which has forced the postponement or cancellation of sporting activities worldwide.

Athletics is among the sporting disciplines affected by the coronavirus outbreak with Athletics South Africa still unsure when they will resume their activities despite being given the green light by their government to return to competition.

That was confirmed by ASA president Aleck Skhosana on Saturday as the organisation sent out a statement explaining its position.

According to the statement, ASA had written to the Minister of Sport, Nathi Mthethwa, informing him of the intention to prioritise lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

This follows a decision from the ASA board, which was guided by the fact that the coronavirus infection rate is rapidly rising in South Africa.

On May 30, Mthethwa announced the staggered opening of professional non-contact sport and of facilities to professional athletes for training.

ASA, though, has resolved not to host any national activities or participate at international events until it deems is safe to do so or until it is expertly advised by the Department of Sport and World Athletics, that it is medically safe to host events at national and international stage.

“Even though athletics has been classified as a non-contact sport, it has unavoidable dynamics that may not be controlled during the action of competition and therefore making transmission a dangerous reality,” said Skhosana.

“ASA has chosen to be extra cautious because one infection or one death would be one too many for our sport, especially when we knew that this is an avoidable situation.”

ASA programmes and activities continue to be either postponed or cancelled.  There are many professional and non-professional athletes who come from impoverished communities and are far from medical centres, the statement added.

“Our athletes insurance does not cover Covid-19 and its complications thereafter, which insurers are very clear that they do not provide cover for,” Skhosana added.

“In the wake of this reality, ASA advises and encourages permitted athletes, coaches and support teams to only use private facilities because they have cover.

“The ASA board has decided that all effort will be concentrated in ensuring that not a single life of an athlete, coach, support team member, event staff, volunteers and all involved, is lost because of Covid-19.

“We are not convinced as ASA that we should put athletes and coaches in a position that is not safe, and we do not want to see anyone from the athletics family form part of the statistics. We value every life. And that, to ASA, comes first.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Sport‚ Arts and Culture has give the green light for seven non-contact sports to resume matches‚ including cricket‚ tennis‚ canoeing and swimming. — Sport24.