EXCLUSIVE: Defiant Olympian Maswanganyi ready for punishment

Track sensation and Olympic athlete Shaun Maswanganyi is ready to deal with whatever sanction is handed to him by Athletics South Africa (ASA) and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

This comes after he pulled out of the allegedly shambolic African Senior Athletics Championship. It is currently underway in Douala, Cameroon.

Left Cameroon tournament amid complaints about food, treatment

He was speaking to Sunday World from Houston, Texas in the US, where he is based. The athlete said it was unfortunate that he was being portrayed as a spoilt brat. All this for taking a stand against bad treatment. He took a stand against the shoddy conditions under which athletes are expected to perform at African championships.

Soweto-born Maswanganyi, 23, left Douala on Saturday. This after complaining about accommodation arrangements, food, the lack of facilities at the stadium. Also against poor transportation for athletes, and just general shoddy planning of the race.

Athletes need to take a stand against bad treatment at African meets

The 2019 African U18 and U20 Championships in Athletics 200m gold medalist  is coached by multiple Olympic gold winner Carl Lewis. He is a student and athlete at the University of Houston.

Maswanganyi said if athletes do not take a stand against poor planning and treatment at African meets, the situation is not going to change.

Athletes were expected to share a bed because there were no single beds available at the Faya Hotel. This is where athletes from South Africa, including Ethiopia and Morrocco, were staying.

“I spoke to Mr [Barry] Hendricks himself, and he said there would be repercussions. [My response was] that I would rather face the repercussions. Because if you are not going to look out for my health and then I’m going to be penalised for that, that says a lot about you than it does about me,” he said.

Sascoc head warned him of repercussions

Hendricks is the president of Sascoc.

Maswanganyi said in addition to accommodation, there were issues with food at the championships. There were also no starting blocks for races and no race guns.

He said athletes had to wait for hours to get transport because a few buses were rotating.

“There was a huge issue because there are not enough buses rotating. And you know the stadium was like an hour away from our hotel,” he said. Athletes had to wait hours to get back to the hotel.

Food, accommodation and transportation just as bad

Maswanganyi said he was also concerned about the food that was served there.

“You know, with some African cultures, they mix chicken and fish in the same pot. So there’s a lot of cross-contamination for someone like me who has allergies,” he said.

­“Last year in China, I got food poisoning, and I got hospitalised for that,” he said. He added that it took him more than a month to fully recover. This affected his participation in other tournaments.

Maswanganyi said he accepted the invitation to participate in the championships because of big names. He thought other big names, such as Akani Simbine, who is part of the relay team, would be there.

Only went there to meet with big names, who were not even there

“I thought that was the reason why I was invited. To be able to run with my relay teammates ahead of the Olympics,” he said.

However, the likes of Simbine were not there.

“It was just ridiculous and frustrating. I said, ‘listen I don’t need to be here for this competition because I already qualified for the games’,” he said.

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