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Gift Leotlela misses flight for world championships as Athletics SA scramble to fix Visa issues

Independent Online (IOL) logo Independent Online (IOL) 2022/07/13 Ashfak Mohamed

Cape Town – Athletics South Africa president James Moloi says he is going to contact Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa to try and solve the visa issue preventing SA athletes from travelling to the United States for the world championships starting on Friday.

Sprinter Gift Leotlela told IOL Sport on Wednesday that he and a number of other SA athletes - Henricho Bruintjies (men’s 4x100m relay), Sinesipho Dambile (men’s 200m), Miranda Coetzee (women’s 400m), Clarence Munyai (men’s 200m), Carina Horn (women’s 100m), Sokwakhana Zazini (men’s 400m hurdles), Zakithi Nene (men’s 400m), Luxolo Adams (men’s 200m) and Taylon Bieldt (women’s 400m hurdles) – were stranded in Italy as they do not have US visas.

The major issue was the lack of available appointments to apply for a visa, with interviews required before the visas are issued.

“We missed our flight now because we still don’t have the waiver letter. But we are leaving the airport now. Can’t fly today,” Leotlela told IOL Sport on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old speedster, who reached the 100m semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics last year, is now in real danger of missing the world championships as the 100m heats take place on Friday.

Kenya’s 100m African champion and record-holder Ferdinand Omanyala is in a similar boat. He posted on Instagram on Wednesday: “Sad that I haven’t travelled to Oregon yet and 100m is in 2 days. Visa delays!!!”

Athletics SA have been receiving assistance from World Athletics on the visa matter, but now they will hope Mthethwa can pull some strings.

“We are busy with that one, we are really busy. The race organisers gave us a letter, and it’s the airlines that are the problem, because we gave them a letter coming from the organisers, World Athletics. But still they are saying that they want a letter from the (US) government, but they can’t get that letter from the US government,” Moloi told IOL Sport on Wednesday.

“They will receive everything there in the US, when they arrive, as they are waiting for them. So, it’s so difficult. How are they going to get a letter from the government? The other countries have already arrived with that letter, so it’s not only us.

“We are doing our level best. I am here at the Athletics South Africa offices to try and sort it out. I am going to phone our Minister now. They (SA government) know about the issues, but I am going to phone him now.”

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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