Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
14 Jul 2014
6:00 am

Fuzzy thinking leaves Gelant on sidelines

Wesley Botton

When Mo Farah inevitably hits the front of the field at the Commonwealth Games, South Africa's best 5 000m runner should have been right up there, hanging on for all he's worth and gaining crucial experience.

Wesley Botton.

But while Farah attempts to once again wipe aside the Kenyan onslaught in a couple of weeks’ time, Elroy Gelant will be nowhere in sight, reduced to a mere spectator in what should be one of the most important races of his career.

Gelant is a terrific athlete, and over the next couple of years he has a very real chance of annihilating every national record from 3 000m to 10 000m.

His main target is the Rio Games, and this month’s Commonwealth spectacle was supposed to be a major step in his long drive towards the pressure-filled cauldron of the Olympic stadium.

Last year, Gelant narrowly missed Shadrack Hoff’s long-standing national 5 000m record and came close to rocking Hendrick Ramaala’s SA 10 000m mark.

Earlier this season he became the first South African to break the 7:40.00 barrier over 3 000m, and he has displayed strength and endurance at the global cross country and half-marathon championships.

Unlike the precociously talented Hoff, Gelant has proved he possesses the confidence and commitment to challenge the world’s best, and unlike the gutsy workhorse Ramaala, the North West University star has the versatility to perform over just about any distance on any surface.

Perhaps the only thing that still needs to be developed in Gelant’s impressive arsenal is international experience, and the Commonwealth Games would have been an ideal platform.

Gelant’s absence is through no fault of his own, but rather a blanket rule seemingly invoked by a haphazard thought process.

He seemed to realise his chances of qualifying were slim, at best, as soon as the criteria was released and almost immediately diverted his focus elsewhere.

The IAAF’s statisticians have spent many years refining the globally recognised points table which allows for athletes, both men and women, to be compared across every discipline of the sport.

Rather than utilising this system, which seems the best way to ensure qualifying standards are fair across the board, Sascoc almost inexplicably opted for a rankings system that favours some athletes and grossly undermines others.

It beggars belief that an athlete can be told to run as fast as possible before a certain date, in the hope of achieving a certain ranking, when the alternative is to provide a specific mark to aim at during a certain period which allows for build-ups, peaks and tapers.

Fingers, however, cannot simply be pointed at Sascoc, who have shown willingness to reconsider the criteria.

Swimming SA recognised the flaws in the ranking qualification and approached the Olympic body with time standards in line with previous Commonwealth rankings, which Sascoc accepted.

Athletics SA, focused on turmoil at administrative level, did no such thing, instead leaving each athlete to guess what performance might be good enough to earn a place in the team.

Gelant is not alone. Many athletes have been left stranded, and while South Africa’s rising athletics stars have become used to fending for themselves, the least they should be able to count on is a bit of consideration and a realistic opportunity to compete.

Elroy Gelant should be going to Glasgow, and he’s not, so say what you will about Sascoc or ASA, they got this one horribly wrong.