Development of Olympic champions not priority for Gauteng Sports MEC

Solly Nkhi MPL

Spokesperson on Sport and Recreation

Gauteng Sports and Recreation MEC Lebogang Maile has dismissed the development of rowing and canoeing in the province, claiming that the sports were not a priority for the department. South Africa is currently the reigning Olympic champions in rowing, but ranked last at the 2013 World Rowing Championships winning only one bronze medal. The 2013 World Rowing Championships were held at Tangeum Lake, Chungju in South Korea between August 25 – 1 September.

This emerged in a recent reply to my question in which the DA challenged the MEC on the proposed closure of training facilities at Roodeplaat Dam. These proposals would have dealt a crushing blow to rowing and canoeing the country, as the facilities are the only Olympic standard training facilities in the country.

The facilities are also home to the successful Academy for Canoe Development, which trains young canoers from around the province, and draws a significant number of children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Not only has the Academy seen its athletes represent the country and achieve excellent results in national competitions, it also provides valuable after-school skills development.

According to the director, the Academy receives no funding or support from provincial or national government. In spite of this, the International Canoeing Federation intends for the Academy to become the hub for the whole of Southern Africa, and even to host the next African Canoe Sprint Championship.

It is clear that the development of these codes should be prioritised, especially in the province which has the best facilities. The MEC’s dismissive attitude is particularly shocking if Gauteng is to be the foundation for the future of these sports, particularly among previously disadvantaged children.