Hestrie Cloete celebrates winning the high jump final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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South Africa selects 23 athletes in provisional Olympic squad

Athletics South Africa yesterday announced a 23-member provisional squad for the Athens Olympics, which included its largest ever number of female athletes headed of course by World High Jump champion Hestrie Cloete.

Olympic 400m finalist Heide Seyerling-Quinn has been entered for both the 400m and 200m, and other tried and tested athletes include World Championships 400m Hurdles finalist Surita Febbriao, Africa Javelin record holder Sunette Viljoen, Geraldine Pillay (100m) and Elizna Naude (Discus).

Janice Josephs who recently set the national Heptathlon record will make her Olympic debut as will Nicolene Cronje (20 km Walk).

World Indoor Champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Olympic silver medallist Franz Kruger (Discus) top the men’s list.

Also named are the world’s top two 400m hurdlers Ockert Cilliers and Alwyn Myburgh. World Student Games 200m champions Leigh Julius (200m), Gerhardus Pienaar (Javelin), Ruben Ramolefi (3000m Steeplechase), Hannes Hopley (Discus), Marcus la Grange (400m) will make their Olympic debut.

Others in the team are Shaun Bownes (110m Hurdles), Chris Harmse (Hammer) and Janus Robberts (Shot Put) compete the list.

ASA Chief Executive Banele Sindani confirmed more athletes can still earn a place to Athens. However they should satisfy the selection criteria before the team is finalised on the 17th of July.

Sepeng not included in line-up

However, the surprise exclusion of Hezekiel Sepeng was the main point of discussion following the announcement of the provisional squad.

A silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Sepeng had showed promise by edging the World Indoor Champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi to win the 800m at the South Africa Olympic Trials in eThekiwni last month. Competing in the Trials and satisfying the Olympic qualifying standard was mandatory for anyone hoping to make the team to Athens.

With much regret ASA Chief Executive Banele Sindani confirmed that Sepeng had failed to compete in the 800m in at least two of the six ABSA Series meeting in February and March. Thisis part of the selection criteria agreed upon between the athletes and ASA during the President’s Meeting last November.

Sindani says that when Sepeng was called to explain his case to the ASA Board he admitted that he had misunderstood the selection criteria. Sepeng requested the board to
consider his case in positive light.

“We have had a very good relationship with our athletes ever since we initiated the President’s Meeting at the beginning of our domestic season,” confirmed Sindani. “We present our proposals and the athletes air their views. Together we agree on a common way forward.”

“If we make rules and allow some athletes to break them, it will erode the goodwill and spirit of co-operation we have built over the years. The ASA Board regrets that we had to take this stand,” Sindani lamented.