Athletes preparing for the South African Championship for the Physically Disabled were left to practise in a thorn-riddled park, as the Vygieskraal Stadium has not been available for use for more than a year now.
The coach of Unitie Sports Club, Muriel Susa, said her club had produced many Western Province and South African champions over the years, and she found it frustrating that they did not have a proper training facility.
The SA Championship is under way in Stellenbosch and ends tomorrow, Thursday March 21.
“We used to train at Vygieskraal Stadium, but it has been under repair for more than a year now. I was told that it has been repaired but waiting on sign-off for all this time.
“We cannot practise without proper facilities, and we were forced to make use of the Kromboom Park. It is not conducive, however, as it is riddled with thorns,” Ms Susa said.
Ms Susa said the athletes depended on their families’ financial support, which made the circumstances even more challenging.
“Our disabled athletes have been marginalised for many years, and this makes me heartbroken.
“I have been involved with disabled sport for more than 50 years – this is my passion. There are no long-jump or track facilities in the park.
“In the past, our athletes have done so well, and, who knows, the ones we are currently training might be breaking records or wining gold medals,” Ms Susa added.
Unitie chairman James Houston said they were all volunteers.
“We offer our time for free. It is about time that government should look into securing a facility for disabled sports people.
“There are no facilities available for people with disabilities currently.
“Last year, we couldn’t find a track and had to go all the way to Paarl to practise. Even Athlone Stadium is not available.
“I believe if you cannot use the stadium for one sport, then you should not use it for any other,” Mr Houston said.
Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said Vygieskraal Stadium was “undergoing upgrades to ensure compliance with the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act (SASREA)”.
He said “numerous, specialised contractors” were needed for the job.
Repairs to the stadium’s roof after part of it had blown off in December 2017 had not met SASREA regulations, he said.
“A meeting was held in the first quarter of 2018 and the recreation and parks department was given a comprehensive 15-point breakdown of SASREA compliance. Following this meeting, a management decision was taken to close the stadium until it is compliant.
“The risk of hosting events in a non-compliant venue was deemed too high.
“The misconception among users is that after the roof was replaced, the stadium would be re-opened. Unfortunately the entire facility is under review, and the new roof is only one factor contributing towards becoming compliant,” he said.
Dr Badroodien said affected users had been offered the use of the Vygieskraal rugby and hockey grass sports fields.
Athlone Stadium, he said, had no athletics facilities.