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Stranded SA athletes finally on their way to world champs

Visa problems caused delay; jet lag a concern as athletes due to perform with little rest time

Luxolo Adams reacts after winning the men's 200m in Paris recently.
Luxolo Adams reacts after winning the men's 200m in Paris recently.
Image: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

SA’s stranded athletes are finally on their way to the world championships in the US after experiencing visa issues. 

The country’s 200m star Luxolo Adams told TimesLIVE late on Thursday morning that he and the rest of the Italian contingent of SA athletes had been “sorted”. 

“We are finally sorted,” he said in a direct message. “Delta Air Lines only received confirmation from CBP [US Customs and Border Protection] this morning and we had been here since 3am this morning. Am just happy we finally going now.”

Fellow sprinter Gift Leotlela, who is expected to compete in the 100m heats on Friday evening, posted on social media that they were on their way “although some of us are going to arrive on the day we racing”. 

“We will fight and represent our country with pride and honour,” he added. 

Organising visas for sports teams is not normally a problem, but there were problems in the system set-up allowing athletes, especially those who were drafted into the team only a week or so ago, to receive visa waivers.

Many athletes from other countries, notably from outside Europe, had also been struggling. The problem appeared to be co-ordination between the CBP and the Regional Carrier Liaison Group, which would assist airlines to identify which passengers could fly without US visas. 

Leotlela and Clarence Munyai are down to run the 100m, while Adams and Munyai will have only the weekend to recover from jet lag before the 200m heats on Monday evening (2am Tuesday SA time). 

The general rule of thumb for jet lag recovery is one day for every hour of time zone crossed, which should mean nine days before competing for those travelling from SA and Italy to Eugene, Oregon. 

That means the men’s 4x100m relay, with the heats set for next Friday, will also be affected, with the likes of Adams and Munyai likely to be a part of that. 

The mixed 4x400m relay, with the heats and final on Friday, the opening day of the championships, will be affected, with Zakhiti Nene also landing there only on the day of competition. 

Those two relays are probably SA’s best chances of winning silverware. 

SA team management will be under pressure to try to deliver what they can for the late arrivals to negate the effects of jet lag as much as they can. 


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