Inside sport: Zimbabwean sport heading nowhere

What has happened to those days when Zimbabwe was a strong and regular competitor not only in regional competitions but also at the Olympic Games and the World Championships.


WATCHING the World Indoor Athletics Championships, which were in Belgrade and the Rome and Paris Marathons and realising that there was not even a single Zimbabwean on parade was saddening to say the least.

It was painful to see such countries as Eretria, Burundi, Botswana, Namibia, and Seychelles, represented at these prestigious world events while Zimbabwe was not.

What has happened to those days when the likes of Philemon Hanneck, Melford Homela, and Ndabezinhle Mdlongwa, made the whole world sit up and take notice.

Those days when the likes of Ngonidzashe Makusha could go as far as fourth in the long jump at the Olympic Games before losing out of a medal by just a centimetre.

What has happened to those days when Zimbabwe was a strong and regular competitor not only in regional competitions but also at the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

What is ironic is that those athletes and countries who did well at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan are the ones preparing fully for the 2024 Olympic Games when those from Zimbabwe are watching from a distance.

Zimbabwe failed to win a medal at both the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, but still seems to have no clue as to where to start from ahead of the Games in Paris in two years’ time.

Week in and week out we also see athletes from South Africa, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Botswana, Kenya and Morocco in action in the Diamond League, but not a single Zimbabwean.

The world championships, the Diamond League, and the marathon calendar, are the build up to the Olympic Games and Zimbabwe cannot expect medals from the Olympics when its athletes are not participating regularly in these competitions.

There are two possible reasons why Zimbabweans are not appearing on this international athletics schedule. It’s either they do not meet the qualifying standards for the competitions or that they do not have the financial resources to take part in these contests.

The latter seems to make sense as the country has too many talented athletes, but what they seem to be lacking is the finances for them to compete at a global scale in view of the harsh economic climate in the country.

Surely, one cannot expect Zimbabwean athletes to get that much needed international experience or to judge their ability when they are always competing amongst themselves.

This is where the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and the government through the Sports and Recreation Commission should come in.

What probably is required right now is for the ZOC to come up with a list of potential 2024 Olympic Games representatives for the SRC to dish out funds to enable them to take part regularly in international competitions.

In fact, the SRC should consider setting up a sports fund to support athletes like Donata Katai and Peter Wetzlar who showed from the 2020 Olympics that they have the potential to win medals in future.

Namibia has such a fund and right now they are reaping the fruits of one of their investments in young Christine Mboma, who took a 200 metre sprint silver medal at the Tokyo Games.

The Zimbabwean government has always admitted that it is not doing enough for sport, but that has only ended in that admission but not a change of attitude.

There are sectors who are receiving too much money from government coffers while sport continues to be neglected yet good results are still expected from those cash-deprived national teams.

It would have been expected for Zimbabwe to change its attitude on sport after the huge contingent of government officials that went to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games but that was not to be.

In fact, the Tokyo Olympic Games group of government officials are still to justify why they went to the Games in the first place, as their end of Olympic Games report is still pending nine months later.

The government sent the minister of sport, Kirsty Coventry, SRC chairman Gerald Mhlotswa, chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on sport, Matthias Tongofa, and the minister’s PA Tariro Kadzirange.

All in all, Zimbabwe sent a group of 13 officials including four from the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee against a team of only five athletes.

The point here is that our athletes will continue to be the punching bags or the fall guys of the international scene as long as the government continues to ignore sport’s demands.

Surely, it is time that the political leaders took sport seriously and for that matter, as an industry, and not entertainment or a luxury as is the case right now.

At things stand – it seems – Zimbabwean sport is heading nowhere.

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