UNITED STATES-BASED Zimbabwean long jumper and sprinter, Ngonidzashe Makusha says there is need for the country to invest in modern training facilities to boost local athletes’ chances of qualifying for major sporting events like the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Athletics Championships and the Olympic Games.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Makusha, who is planning a comeback ahead of next year’s Rio Olympics after being sidelined by injury, said he was worried at the continued decrease in the number of local track and field athletes competing at the highest level.
“It’s sad that the number of our athletes that qualify for championships has been decreasing and I think, as a country, we should start looking at advanced, modern ways of training we can incorporate within our organisations. One important thing is investing in facilities before anything,” he said.
Makusha, who remains the only Zimbabwean athlete to win a medal at the IAAF World Championships after clinching an historic bronze in 2011, said investing in infrastructure should be the first step towards reviving local athletics.
“We need to build world-class gym facilities, where athletes can train, where people like me and other Olympians from Zimbabwe can come and train during the off season and mentor our young and upcoming athletes, while at the same time communicating with those in power to see how we can modify and develop our high perfomance programmes.
“We have too much talent in Zimbabwe. The only thing missing, in my opinion, is the development and protection of young talent,” he said.
Once regarded as one of the powerhouses on the continent in the 1990s, athletics standards in Zimbabwe have over the years deteriorated drastically, with only three marathon runners qualifying for the last edition of the Olympics in London.
Recently, only four athletes — three marathon runners, Cuthbert Nyasango, Gilbert Mutandiro and Cephas Pasipamire and one sprinter Tatenda Tsumba — qualified for the IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Beijing, China, three months ago.
Deteriorating infrastructure and failure to expose local athletes to modern training methods have, in most instances, been cited as the major reasons for the continued slump.
Until the installation of electronic timing system at White City Stadium for last year’s African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe had to hire electronic timing equipment from neighbouring Botswana.