Regardless of what most fans and sports lovers see out there, there exists a chronic set of problems that plague the sports landscape from administration to lack of facilities and events.
One could say given this seemingly insurmountable set of problems, that African athletes who excel on the global stage are true survivors and very resilient individuals.
In most cases they do not have a support system in place (financial and otherwise) to help them train to become better athletes and across the continent there is a significant lack of up to date and modern facilities where athletes can train or yet still compete in national and international events at home.
If such lack of proper and modern facilities exists then the idea of specialized facilities for specific sport disciplines will be considered a luxury and an exception to the rule.
Track & Field is arguably the second most popular sport in Africa after Soccer but it is light years behind soccer in terms of development and resources.
Meet Cindy Peters a world class Triple Jumper and Sprinter who is passionate about bringing some life to the sport of Track and Field on the continent by organizing the very first African Indoor Athletics Championships ever.
Cindy started running at the age of 4 and has not stopped since and she is very particular about changing the status quo in helping her fellow African athletes and future generations of athletes realize their true potential by creating world class events like The Annual African Indoor Championship that will not only rival other continental events around the world but become a standing example of the direction the sport should take across Africa.
She has been trolling cyberspace to seek the support of the powers that be along with that of her fellow athletes and fans alike to make The first ever African Indoor Championships a reality. I caught up with Cindy recently and asked a her a few pointed questions about her drive for such an event and here is what she had to say;
Why an African Indoor Meet
Firstly I would like to bring to your attention and congratulate all the athletes that proudly represented Africa at the continental cup. We finished 3rd out of 4 behind Europe and the Americas, while Asia finished in 4th place.
Every year, we the athletes in Africa are engaged in watching the European indoor games which has already held 32 editions/ the American indoor championships which I started watching since 2005 and of course the Asian indoor championships which had its first edition back in 2004.
We know that Africa does not have an indoor championship because there is no indoor track on the continent to host it on; however, we are made to participate at the WORLD INDOOR GAMES and come PREPARED at that ...
So then why will this help African athletes? Well, I can imagine we can run some very fast times. I don’t think we have seen the best of the 60m yet. I think we have boys back home that can run sub 6.50’s.
I have seen the former world indoor champion from Great Britain being proclaimed by journalists as a great indoor specialist and I think Africa personally can offer better performers than that.
Have you ever wondered how specialized it is to train in an indoor facility, the first time i trained at an indoor arena, I had to slow up a bit on the turns. It takes time to train and become good at performing in such events.
Among other things we need opportunities. We don’t need to watch from our seat and we want to be competitive against the world.
To know we are the only continent without such a major championship is not a reflection that we don’t care, Africa has the talents , we want to shine, we want to show our worth.
Where will this meet be organized at?
I was under the impression that there is no indoor stadium in Africa. But it was recently brought to my attention that perhaps Mauritius or Tunisia might have a venue. We are in the process of contacting those federations, to see if they can work with us on this.
However for the present moment THIS AFRICAN INDOOR GAMES might end up being held in Europe if we cannot locate a facility within Africa. The Beautiful sporting City of Nantes, in France might be available after the 8th of March 2015, but we have to finalize plans for hosting this event before we can proceed with anything and it is imperative that the IAAF and the Confederation of African Athletics come on board with us.
Who will foot the bill for such a meet?
Of course to finance such an event can be enormous.
Therefore, we will have to negotiate with the relevant stakeholders at a short notice of course and we know this can prove to be an obstacle but not a deal breaker. Perhaps FACEBOOK or USAIN BOLT can offer us an endorsement. Or the IAAF can help in some capacity to get it off the ground. In the meantime, we will utilize and work with resources more powerful than money; and that is people.
We African athletes and our communities will see which companies believe in this idea for the fact that there is a big opportunity here for all, especially to help the underserved and underprivileged across Africa.
Like the Adidas Tagline "Impossible is nothing", as well as the famous Nike saying “Just do it” !!! we will do it. We will wait to see which bank or one of these global companies (Nike or Adidas or any other) out there believes in us.
The 2015 Indoor Season is around the corner do you think there is enough time to put the logistics in place to make this meet materialize?
Indeed !!! .. It is always said, many hands make lighter work. There is enough time, we only need to share the load, you don’t get ahead without friends and in Africa it is never a problem to ask your neighbor for a little milk, bread or sugar… lol.
The Logistics is not an impossible thing; we just need to get things in order, a checklist, some sponsors, and people. People are the most precious.
Tell us who is Cindy Peters
Wow, hard question. I would like to remain modest in my achievements. Because i firmly believe the struggle and the journey defines me.
But if I need to claim credibility I am an MBA student at ESC Rennes School of Business in France, And an ambassador for Campus France; an organization that promotes higher learning, and am also currently an athlete in the Nantes Metropolitan Athletics Club, a club that boasts of being in the elite league level in France.
But I remain humble, as my roots are humble. I was born in the township of Mitchells plain in South Africa and have been an athlete all my life.
Im also a former chess champion as well as the former President of the National Student Federation for Chess in South Africa.
I graduated Magna Cum Laud from the University of Western Cape and was a also a onetime sports woman of the year at the University.
I however wish to be known as a friend to many, and an inspiration to other athletes that come from where I do.
Who will be the beneficiaries of such a meet?
The beneficiaries will clearly be the athletes. African athletes !!!.
This is a platform for barriers to be broken, inequalities to be contended with and Africa to shine.
Having the meet in Europe only means that through sport we are united. Europe is a friend of Africa.
You are currently an active athlete yourself, how do you aim to achieve your goal in being part of this event and continue to focus on your own training?
Yes I am. It is no secret that I also wish to participate in the event too, but I have to qualify first to indicate to the world how fair a person I am, and if i don’t, I will be happy to sit in the stands and watch those who do fly the flag high.
However if i wasn’t an active athlete myself I would have the drive to push to help other athletes. i understand the athletes better myself as I am one and know what it takes all the way around.
In Africa you have to understand everyone has a job. Some athletes run to the mines to go to work every day, it’s a part of their training. We don’t have the luxury of being a full time professional like others do around the world. A very small minority does, yes, but most of them are student athletes.
Anyway a few years ago, i was the assistant manager of the University program. I had to organize the teams travel, clothing, reception, team selection, and i still performed at my best.
The key is always to have a competent team. You know there is no I in Team and i don’t need to take centre stage, but be part of the whole process.
Do you have a message for Track and Field Lovers in Africa and around the world as it pertains to the need for such a meet?
Yes I do. As I am talking to you we know Africa does not have an indoor track, and has never had an indoor championship. Many African athletes will retire from their careers not knowing what an indoor track looks or feel like, and our hearts bleed when we have to watch the others compete elsewhere around the world. We appeal to all those who are in the power, or who have the resources, to kindly step forward, and hold our hands to move things forward. Let this be a breakthrough for equal opportunities and fairness on the continent.
The next world indoors will soon arrive and will Africa have an event before then? This is a great challenge for all of us.
You are very passionate about the sport of Track and Field and also about putting Africa on the map globally what are your plans after retiring from being an active athlete?
I am, and I am also proudly African.
My plans are that i will retire very soon. But before that I will like to make it to the Olympic Games, and very much like to be like Blessing Okagbare. She has achieved milestones in the 100m Long jump, 200m and years back Triple jump too.
After that i will hang up my spikes and take up chess, lol …. I believe to be happy one must have a balance between love and success, and so I wish to have a family and simultaneously as well I have aspirations of becoming the first female President of a Major Federation where I can serve my sport, perhaps the IAAF. Or the Ministry of Sports in my country... the future is undefined
I want to do all this to honor the memory of the late Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, and for my comrades in South Africa. Isaac Mbuyazi, Ezekiel Sepeng, Tebogo Masehtle, Mapaseka Mkhanya, close friend of Mulaudzi; Florent the former 800m French national record holder, Jp Van der merve and others who were close to him.
We must be reminded that life is short and we should take the moment we have to make a difference. Because there may not be a next time.
May Africa have its first Indoor Championships so let us seize this moment and make history.