Madibaz Sport athletics manager Nellis Bothma has urged student-athletes to take what positive lessons they can from the enforced lockdown period caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Like many sports codes worldwide, student and national meetings run by Varsity Athletics and Athletics South Africa have been put on hold as officials ponder the way forward when the lockdown ends.
Bothma is encouraging athletes under the Bestmed Madibaz banner to keep on preparing as best they can for when competition resumes again.
“I acknowledge it is not easy, but my message to our athletes is to never stop training,” he said.
“Our experienced coaches and their athletes can use initiatives to change their training methods according to each one’s situation and to be ready and in good shape after the lockdown.
“I believe this is an experience to learn more about yourself as a person and an athlete.
“It shows we must be prepared for anything at any time. It’s like training in difficult conditions because you never know what the situation might be when it is your moment to peak in a meeting.”
The Varsity Athletics programme was put on hold before the lockdown, but Bothma said nothing had been cancelled yet.
“No track and field events are officially cancelled as yet, not by Varsity Sport, USSA or ASA,” he confirmed. “All these championships are postponed at this stage.
“Varsity Athletics have made it clear that they will only take a decision once the lockdown period is over.”
He acknowledged that the postponement of events, including the Olympic Games, would have a severe effect on the student-athletes.
“Our Bestmed Madibaz athletes have trained hard for the 2020 national events and some had already qualified and were selected for representative teams,” added Bothma.
“For some of our top junior athletes it was the last time to earn a medal at SA junior and youth championships and also to be selected for a national junior team to represent South Africa.
“In respect of our senior athletes and final-year students it is a seriously tough situation as they might not be students next year or too old to either compete or to be selected for an age-group national team.
“This could mean not earning medals or breaking records, which can hamper their future in the sport.”
Meanwhile, leading Madibaz athletes such as long-distance runner Marianio Eesou and field athlete Ischke Senekal are, like many of their colleagues, making the best of the situation.
Eesou said he was fortunate to be spending the lockdown with his coach, Karen Zimmerman, in the rural Eastern Cape resort of Hogsback.
“We are at her mid-altitude training camp and the property is sizeable enough to maintain an intensive programme without violating lockdown protocols,” he said.
“We have cut a 1km route around the inner perimeter and are focusing on marathon training.
“In the current uncertain climate we are obviously not able to work towards any specific date or event and have thus set ourselves the goal of maintaining an optimal level of event preparedness until such time as there is more clarity.
“I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to Nellis Bothma, Stillwater Sports and Puma South Africa for their support during this trying time.”
Senekal, who specialises in the shot put and discus, has also adapted to the situation, using the chance to put her technique under the spotlight.
“I have my own circle at home [in Uitenhage], so I am doing my drills for shot as well as discus,” she said.
“I am focusing on the basics again, which is the most important part of the technique and will benefit me in the long run.
“My goal after lockdown is definitely to see when the SA national champs will be and then strive to do my best, as well as try to qualify for the Olympics, now in 2021.”