by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – FEMALE athletes are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown after the pandemic floored six tournaments sponsored by one of the country’s leading retailers.
However, the athletes will be smiling all the way to the bank when the events return bigger and better next year.
Spar, which sponsors the races, has thrown in the towel regarding the holding of its 10km Challenge events for 2020.
These are held annually in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay, Pietermaritzburg and the capital, Tshwane.
The retailer stated that despite the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa allowing South Africans to exercise, they were not allowed to run in groups.
Hence, it is impossible to hold races such as the Spar series that attracts hordes of female runners.
“We are very disappointed that one of Spar’s premier sponsorships has had to be cancelled this year,” Mike Prentice, Spar Group Marketing Executive, said.
The executive said his company prioritised the health and well-being of its customers and community members, which include the thousands of women who run in the Spar Women’s Challenge series yearly.
“The decision (to cancel the races) was clear-cut,” according to Prentice.
He assured that despite the economic tailspin sparked by COVID-19, the company would retain its sponsorship of the women’s races.
The retailer will be offering a total prize money pool of around R600 000 for its Grand Prix.
“And, of course, this is over and above the very substantial prize money available in each of the races,” Prentice said.
The Spar series is exclusively for women.
Thousands turn up yearly for the tournaments that comprise of 5km and 10km runs and walks.
Prentice urged prospective runners to keep in shape.
“In the meantime, we suggest that all the women out there keep training but, of course, according to the rules.”
COVID-19 has wrecked South Africa’s athletics season. The world has not been spared too.
The country is on the throes of the virus, which by the beginning of the week had claimed 2 456 lives from 138 134 cases.
– CAJ News