Relief for Athletics SA as African Championship to go ahead in Nigeria
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CAPE TOWN - Former 800m Olympic silver medallist Hezekiel Sepeng expressed his delight yesterday after receiving confirmation that the African Athletics Championships will be held in Nigeria at the end of June.
There were social media reports late on Tuesday night that Lagos was going to host the event, following a second postponement last week with Algeria as the venue, due to the Covid-19 situation in the country.
But after a meeting between Nigeria's sports minister Sunday Dare and the president of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), Hamad Kalkaba Malboum of Cameroon, in Cairo on Monday, it was agreed that the championships would take place at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos from June 23-27.
Sepeng, though, sought confirmation from the CAA yesterday as he had told Independent Media that Athletics South Africa had yet to receive the official circular announcing the agreement – and he eventually got a reply to his email inquiry.
Many African-based athletes, including from South Africa, saw the continental event as the final opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, with the cut-off date set at June 29 and the lack of finances or invites to travel to Europe or the United States.
“We can now start working on the final team, and it's a relief that we will have an opportunity to participate and seek qualification for the Olympic Games,” said Sepeng, who finished second at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 1999 world championships in Seville and at the 1994 and 1998 Commonwealth Games.
“Among the sprinters, we still have a few who can qualify in the 200 metres. At this time, we have two in the 100m – Gift Leotlela and Akani Simbine – and one in the 200m, Clarence Munyai.
“And I know Phatu (Shaun Maswanganyi), who is in the US, is participating there. I don't think there is a chance for him to come over for the African champs. The other problem is that there are other athletes who have already gone to Europe, so we will need to sit down with the track and field commission (at Athletics SA to select the team).”