25 January 2014

South Africa not sending athlete to Sochi

For the first time since they returned to the Olympics at the 1992 Summer Games South Africa will not be sending an athlete to Sochi. This is despite the fact that when the quota allocation was finalised on Monday they were allocated one spot in Alpine Skiing.

However, Sive Speelman who was the skier whose performances that quota spot was based on will not be packing his bags from the ski slopes of Europe where he has been gaining points to head to the Black Sea city that is hosting the 2014 Winter Games.

The last quota from the IOC is to award the unused positions based on countries who had yet to fill a position or those who were not using their full criteria, when they were awarded multiple spots, freeing up spots. The standard for the quota list released in December was based on skiers achieving a average score of less than 140 points based on five FIS events. As of earlier this week Speelman had a score of 140.126 only just missing out on achieving the B standard as of right. However, as explained above the IOC were filling up the spots for the men's slalom which will take place on the 22nd February and this was good enough to be part of that day.

Yesterday the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) said that they would not be taking up the spot saying they would only be sending their best athletes to the Olympics.

However, a quick look at Sive's FIS page indicates that the earlier of these five races used to get that average was on 9 April 2013. There is a race three days earlier which he also picked up points which if used as a average of his best five scores over the last 12 months actually comes to 134.97.

So you can understand the disappointment of the 18 year old from Barkly East with his local Olympic Committee. However, looking at every South African Winter Olympic team since 1994 they have one thing in common that Sive Speelman cannot provide. There is at least one white South African in each of their previous five Winter Games teams.

With the refusal to send Speelman as a one man team there will be international scrutiny on the subject of race on this decision denying the one invitee from the IOC for South Africa to send to the Games in a fortnight's time.

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