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Basketball teens in dream US trip

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Three local teenage basketball players will have a rare lifetime opportunity to visit the United States when they leave for America tomorrow night to take part in a 12-day basketball exchange programme.

The trio are Mutsa Chiromo of Arundel High, Francisca Sekete of Queen Elizabeth High and Rukudzo Matsekwa of Bulawayo’s Dominican Convent.

The players will be accompanied by Belia Zibowa, who is a coach for the local basketball women’s team.

US embassy counsellor for Public Affairs, officer Sharon Hudson-Dean, confirmed the trip yesterday.

The programme was facilitated by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Sports United division, in partnership with the National Collegiate Athletics’ Association (NCAA).

The three will be part of a group of 18 teenage girls and six female coaches from six different countries including Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Thailand, Tunisia and Ukraine taking part in the programme. Michael Brooke, the Public Diplomacy officer at the US embassy said: “We hope the visit will inspire more women and girls to become involved in sports and experience the benefits of participation; improved health, greater self-esteem, and greater academic success. The Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative shows foreign participants the US through the lense of women’s sport, while introducing Americans to different cultures.”

Organisers said for the first four days of the programme, the 24 participants will share their own experiences and learn about women’s sports in the US through a combination of team building activities, basketball clinics and sessions on sports psychology and nutrition.

They will tour the White House before travelling to Denver, Colorado, to take part in community initiatives and events related to the NCAA Women’s Final Four Championship.

During this high-profile week of games, the Empowering Women and Girls through Sports visitors will train with female basketball coaches and student-athletes; learn about Title IX and its challenges from the White House Project; play basketball with athletes with disabilities; and travel to Colorado Springs to see the Olympic Training Centre.

The programme concludes with their attendance at the Women’s Final Four Championship Game at the Pepsi Centre.

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