United States-based Zimbabwean long-jumper and sprinter Ngonidzashe Makusha will be Zimbabwe’s best medal hopefuls when the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships get underway in Daegu, South Korea on Saturday.
Even the failure by veteran sprinter Brian Dzingai to qualify for the championships had not dampened the country’s hopes of a decent performance in Korea.
Makusha had been in irresistible form this year, convincing most local fans that the country might have produced a world-class track and field star capable of competing against the best on the planet.
The “Mandedza Express”, as Makusha was now being referred to by his growing legion of local fans, will compete in the 100m sprint and the long jump.
The Zimbabwean 100m and long jumper record holder leads a four-man Zimbabwe team which also has sprinter Gabriel Mvumvure (100 and 200m), middle-distance female athlete Thandiwe Nyathi (1 500m) and marathon runner Cuthbert Nyasango.
The multi-talented Makusha proved his mettle with one of the most dominating overall performances in the history of collegiate track and field events during the National Collegiate Athletics Association outdoor track and field championships in the US.
Not only did he win the men’s long jump championship with a Drake Stadium-record leap of 8,40m, but he also set the new collegiate record in the men’s 100m with a time of 9,89secs.
His impressive time and gigantic leap earned him A standard qualification for the World Athletics Championships.
He became just the fourth person to ever win both the 100m and long jump, joining legends Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and DeHart Hubbard.
He is the main contender for the Bowerman Award in the US given annually to the nation’s top track and field performer.
Makusha went on to mark his professional debut a few months later with a second place finish in the 100m at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest early this month, behind one of Jamaica’s top sprinters and former world champion Asafa Powell.
He followed up with his maiden professional win a week later in Sweden where he set a new 100m course record of 10,11secs in the 100m at the Karlstad Grand Prix.
While it will be a long shot for Makusha to win the 100m where he will battle it out with top sprinters like Jamaican Usain Bolt and Powell, there is no doubt that he is capable of reaching the final.
The long jump title remains a very realistic target for Makusha, who came agonisingly close to winning a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
This time he is likely to face stiff competition from Australian jumper Mitchell Watt, Olympic champion Irving Saladino of Panama and the American duo of defending champion Dwight Phillips and Will Claye, only to mention a few.