Zimbabwe Triathlon Association president Rick Fulton says he is determined to change the face of triathlon in the country and make the sport as popular as football and cricket.
He said triathlon had started to get recognition on the African continent as indicated by its inclusion, for the first time, in the All-Africa Games set to take place in Mozambique next year.
Fulton told NewsDay in an interview this week that Zimbabwe would host the Troutbeck Africa Cup in November and a lot of interest had already been generated locally.
“Zimbabwean triathlon is set for real growth,” said Fulton. “We have had a tremendous increase in the number of participants in our local competitions and the Troutbeck Africa Cup should be a resounding success.
“The Troutbeck Africa Cup is an Olympic qualification points race which is part of a series that includes Namibia, Kenya and Mauritius.”
Fulton said he was impressed by the performance of the young athletes who participated in the National Junior Championships in Troutbeck, Nyanga, over the weekend.
“We witnessed some high level competition from the youngsters in the under 13, 15, 17 and the under 19s.”
“Some of them have been selected to represent Zimbabwe in the pre-cup trial games to be held in Germiston, South Africa in two weeks time,” Fulton said.
The event at Germiston will also be used to prepare for the main event on the African triathlon calendar – the African Triathlon Championships – which will be held in Durban in May.
South African-based triathlon athlete Chris Felgate shared the same views with Fulton about the new interest and the triathlon talent in Zimbabwe.
“There are talented youngsters who have the potential to really make a name for themselves provided they are given the adequate support,” Felgate told NewsDay from his base in South Africa.
Felgate came third at the African Triathlon Championships last year and also represented Zimbabwe at the Beijing Olympics.
He will participate in the same events this year.
“I will participate in the team event at the South African Championships because I recently had an operation and am not fully recovered. I am still trying to improve my running speed by competing at the Johannesburg City Series in April and the African Championships in May.”
Mark Marabini is probably the country’s most popular athlete to succeed in triathlon having represented the country during the 1995 All-Africa Games which were hosted by Zimbabwe.
He also represented the country at the inaugural Olympic triathlon event in 2000 before he retired from the sport.
Triathlon is an endurance sport that requires athletes to excel at three very different pursuits –swimming, cycling and running.
The sport demands intense discipline because each area requires a high level training schedule.