ZIMBABWE’S top top-ranked male archer Gavin Sutherland hopes his qualification for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will inspire more people to take up the sport, which has been on a revival since its return to the international arena five years ago.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Sutherland, who currently resides in the United Kingdom, earned Zimbabwe’s first Olympic berth in archery since 1988 after finishing as the fifth recurve man at the African Archery Championships held in Windhoek, Namibia, last month.
Should Sutherland be selected to compete in Rio by the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, he would become the first archer to represent the country at the Olympics since Wrex Tarr’s appearance in Seoul, South Korea, 28 years ago.
“I am so super excited as I have been trying my best to get Zimbabwean archery going again and on the world map. I am 100% over the moon and I just want to hold my flag high at the Olympics,” Sutherland told NewsDay Sport in an interview from his UK base.
“This (his qualification) will definitely have a positive impact on our sport. The Zimbabwe ambassador visited the competition and committed to allocating a first archery ground,” Sutherland, who won a medal the 1995 African Championships as a junior before pursuing a career as a professional cyclist, said.
The 36-year-old Bulawayo-born athlete, who won gold and silver medals at the Second Africa Open International Tournament in Egypt two years ago, said he was delighted to finally earn qualification for the Olympics, after narrowly missing out four years ago.
“I still can’t believe it. I just missed out of qualifying for the London Olympics in 2012 because Zimbabwe was just rejoining the world archery.
“At the last African champs, I won a gold and silver medal and was the only Zimbabwean archer shooting internationally for Zimbabwe. This year, at the African champs, I was joined by four more archers from Harare. So the fire has started and soon we will be even stronger,” he said.
Sutherland is the ninth local athlete to qualify for the Rio Olympics joining swimming icon Kirsty Coventry, clay target shottist Mike Nicholson, marathon runners Wirimayi Juwawo, Pardon Ndhlovu, Gilbert Mutandiro and Cuthbert Nyasango and two rowers Micheen Thornycroft and Peter Purcell-Gilpin.
Zimbabwe will also, for the first time, be represented in women’s football after the Mighty Warriors’ historic qualification for the Rio Games after their victory over Cameroon.
The number of local athletes at the global showpiece set for August 5 to 21 is expected to increase with additional athletes in other sporting codes such as golf, athletics, swimming, Sevens Rugby and equestrian still in contention to qualify for Rio 2016.