Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates winning the women's 800m Final race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Athletics, Track and Field events at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 22 2016. Picture: EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON
Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates winning the women's 800m Final race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Athletics, Track and Field events at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 22 2016. Picture: EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON

Johannesburg — Athletics SA (ASA) on Tuesday unveiled five sponsors for its flagship national senior championships in Germiston in April, a move they say will lift the overall quality of the event.

Title sponsors‚ medical-aid company Sizwe Medical Fund and insurance company 3SixtyLife‚ would also be involved in the SA under-20 and under-18 championships, which will be staged under the banner of cold-drinks company Twizza.

The senior championships, which ASA president Aleck Skhosana said are compulsory for all athletes wanting to compete at the world championships in Doha later this year, will be staged in Germiston from April 25 to 27.

The age-group competition is in Paarl on March 26 and 27.

“It’s exciting to have fresh‚ new partners‚” said Michael Meyer‚ MD of Stillwater Sports‚ which arranged the sponsorships on behalf of ASA.

He said the sponsorships‚ which also include Adidas‚ Rhodes Foods and Vital Health Foods for both championships‚ would ensure athletes are treated professionally.

“I remember going to the SA seniors at Stellenbosch a few years ago and it was midway through the afternoon and Caster [Semenya] was obviously running a few events, and there she was lying under a tree in the shade between events, and I thought this is a world-class athlete.

“So what we’re trying to do is just make sure athletes are treated professionally‚ coaches‚ spectators and even officials. That takes a lot of investment.”

Skhosana‚ who said the title sponsorships are for three years‚ warned athletes they would have to compete in all rounds to make themselves eligible for the national team.

That rule was brought in after the 2018 championships, where some of the athletes withdrew after the semifinals.

“These are the national championships. You must be a national champion‚ you must inspire the community so parents bring their young ones to the stadiums to watch you,” said Skhosana.

“Let me also say‚ you will be an athlete on our team if you run through all rounds. You run your 100m heat‚ you run your semifinal and you run your final. You cannot be able to run and stop and all that.”

A replacement sponsor for the Athletix Grand Series has not yet been secured. A three-meet series was sponsored by Liquid Telecom in 2018, but after their withdrawal, the 2019 series will comprise two meets‚ in Bloemfontein on April 13 and in Potchefstroom on April 18.

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