Athletics needs fresh ideas – Elana Meyer

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Athletics events in South Africa are in need of an urgent shot in the arm if the country is to catch up to world standard events and performances, according to Olympic hero Elana Meyer.

Meyer, speaking ahead of the highly-anticipated Global Athletics Conference that takes place in Durban next month, said the event side of the sport was lacking.

“There are two aspects in particular that need the most urgent attention. One is the hosting of well-organised track meetings that include TV coverage. Secondly, there is a need to restructure the South African road running fixture list. Events need to be graded accordingly and focus must be placed on prestige 5km, 10km and 21,1km events,” said Meyer who will be a panellist at the GAC 2014.

GAC 2014 is an international conference hosted by KwaZulu-Natal Athletics, endorsed by Athletics South Africa and made possible through funding by the National Lottery Distribution Trust. The conference will focus on focus on topics such as performance and training; innovation; commercial opportunities; sponsorship; the media; commercialisation and brand building.

Meyer said that she hoped that the conference discussions would lead to a robust engagement of issues that would improve the sport. “It will be great if we could come up with a formalised event ‘model’ that is financially viable and that appeals to the current generation of athletes, spectators and sponsors,” she said.

The diminutive athlete, who won the hearts of South African when she claimed silver at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 and who founded and managed the Endurocad distance running academy, believes that if an appropriate events model could be developed there would be plenty of scope for new events on the athletics calendar.

“South Africa does not have any athletic events on the calendar at the moment that are prestigious, well supported and aspirational. There is certainly room for more events of international standard.”

She said higher profile events would lead to better performances and more South African athletes making it on to the global stage.

“SA Athletics needs a structure to facilitate the development of athletes through junior level to world class performance. Unfortunately the profile of the sport and the events in South Africa is too low and too few to keep the best athletes and coaches in the sport,” she said.

“There is certainly a need for greater discussion and analysis of the sport and the Global Athletics Conference is an important first step to addressing the challenges.”

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