Zim beach volleyball teams eye Olympic qualification

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The Zimbabwe beach volleyball men and women teams are entertaining the prospects of competing at next year’s Olympic Games when they take part in phase two of the zonal competitions next month.

Twenty of Africa’s finest beach volleyball teams will battle it out for eight available slots in the Continental Cup.

The best two countries from the Continental Cup finals set for January next year will automatically qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Ranked number 21 in Africa, the Zimbabwe men squad has been drawn in Group C together with Rwanda, Gabon, Morocco and Algeria while the women, number 17 on the continent, will face DRC, Gabon, Morocco and Algeria.

Zimbabwe has been enjoying a fairytale run in its debut in international beach volleyball, doing well in the sub-zonal and zonal phase one stages.

Zimbabwe Volleyball Association, vice-president, (technical and development) Erasmus Mupukuta spoke to NewsDay Sport on the teams’ performances so far as well as chances of Olympic qualification.

“We have done very well in every level of competition that we have competed in so far and we are keeping our eyes and ears open for opportunities. We will grab every opportunity that will come our way and I think we have a fair chance of making it to the Olympics,” said Mupukuta.

“Our immediate challenge at the moment is to excel at the phase two zonal competitions and qualify for the Continental Cup and we are in with a real chance,” he added.

Mupukuta downplayed the latest Africa beach volleyball rankings arguing that they do not accurately represent Zimbabwe’s quality and standard of play.

“It’s good that our women have been ranked 17th, with the men side in 21st position. Since we are new on the continent, they are not true reflection of how good the country is. We are definitely going to make a mockery of those rankings at the upcoming competitions,” he said.

The men’s team will be banking on Nyasha Takawira, who is the best beach volleyball player at the moment, as well as Bindura-based Kudakwashe Chizema, Brighton Ngunzi, Abidan Katemanyoka and Elliot Mupariwa.

Viola Muchaona, Kwekwe’s Nomatter Mbiza, Vuyiswa Dhlomo and Christine Manyanya form the backbone of the national women beach volleyball team.

However, the biggest challenge facing the volleyball mother body is the funding to get the teams to the competitions and footing the camping costs as well other required materials.

Mupukuta however, declared they are in the process of perfecting their product and once they are done, sponsorship will be available.

Zimbabwe need to finish first or second in their zonal phase two group to make it to the Continental Cup in order to compete with Africa’s eight best countries.