KZN Athletics will sharpen its focus on middle distance and cross country events as it seeks to intensify its high performance development programme on the back of impressive showing at the National Cross Country Championships.
KZNA President Sello Mokoena says it’s also vital that their programmes reach deep into the rural areas of the province.
“We want more school involvement from rural and developing areas to promote cross country,” said Mokoena. “We have incredible talent in the province so we need to develop better systems that will identify and nurture our athletes.”
KwaZulu-Natal athletes gave outstanding performance at the 2016 ASA Cross Country Championships in George last month, managing to claim third position for the second year in a row. Team KZN selected a team of 186 athletes who scooped an impressive total of 26 medals – 9 Gold; 7 Silver and 10 Bronze.
The tally placed them third behind Central and North Gauteng. By far the stand out performance came from young Ayanda Phungula from Harry Gwala, who came from behind the field to finish first and secured a Gold medal in the u/14 category.
Mokoena says the association is under no illusions of the work required if the province is to not only improve but compete with the Gauteng teams. KZNA’s plan of action includes:
- Focussing on development and up-skilling districts coaches in middle distance and cross country disciplines;
- Improving access to all athletes from rural areas to attach them to coaches and expose them to higher levels of competition;
- Involving more schools from rural and developing areas to promote cross country; and
- Introducing camps for KZN squads where they can get professional coaching and psychological preparation ahead of competitions.
Mokoena says that KZNA understands the importance of a league programme for cross country as it is the foundation for middle distance events as well as for producing future athletes for the track and marathons.
“The practical way to get this done is to address the issue of lack of provincial turn-up of athletes due to lack of community outreach in both rural and semi-rural areas. We will communicate the message more effectively so it can reach everyone,” he said.
For the future national championships, KZNA aims to identify the best performing athletes across the province and nurture them. The project also aims to increase the numbers of athletes from the province who will participate at events.
“We believe that the participation in the cross country promotes a balanced and healthy lifestyle. We want to offer our athletes as much support as needed,” said Mokoena. “For the George trip we provided athletes with accommodation, three luxury buses and meals on the road and at the competition. We want our athletes to know that we support them all the way.”
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