Five athletes for Paralympics Games
ZIMBABWE are this year expected to field five athletes at the upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September.
The Paralympic Games are scheduled for September 7 to 18.
Zimbabwe will be represented in athletics by Laina Sithole, who got a bipartite invitation, and in pararowing.
Late last year there were indications that Sithole and Shepherd Gumede had qualified for Rio soon after the African Games in Congo Brazzaville where they took part in athletics.
But it later emerged that they had attained B qualification times, which only enabled them to be considered for bipartite invitation.
Only Sithole got the bipartite invitation and Team Zimbabwe chef de mission, Witness Magulula, confirmed the development yesterday.
“Zimbabwe has one athlete in athletics, Laina Sithole, who has qualified through a bipartite invitation. She will compete in 100m event class T13.
“We also have a para-rowing team that’s going to compete for the first time and the team comprises of four athletes with disabilities and one coxswain who has no disability as per requirement.
“This is an exciting moment for Zimbabwe as rowing is one of the growing sport in this country.
“Initially, it had emerged as though the two (Sithole and Gumede) had attained qualifying times for Rio 2016. But upon further inquiries, it emerged that the two had attained B standard of qualification of which it was not automatic.
“This B qualification standard enabled the athletes to be considered for bipartite invitation slots application.
“We applied for this and only Laina Sithole was considered and Shepherd Gumede was not. It’s up to the discretion of IPC Athletics (International Paralympic Committee) to consider who should be allocated the slot,” said Magulula.
The para-rowing team is made up of Previous Wiri, Takudzwa Gwariro, Margaret Bangajena, Michelle Grant and Jessica Davis (coxswain).
Magulula said they are hoping to intensify their preparations next week for all the involved athletes.
“Preparations for the Games are underway since we are aware of the level of competition there. It’s an elite type of competition where one has to be at his or her best form in order to attain desired performance.
“We are putting an intensive programme that starts in earnest next week for both athletics and rowing. Like any other battalion that goes into battle, the ultimate goal is to win but we cannot be all winners. We are going there to put our maximum effort under the banner of our national flag.
“Zimbabwe has done it before at the Paralympic Games, so history may favour us and see that beautiful flag of ours being hoisted higher up in the sky once again,” said Magulula.
The Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee is expected to have submitted the final team to the IPC by August 15.
Zimbabwe last won a medal at the Paralympic Games in 2004 in Athens, Greece, when Elliot Mujaji scooped gold in the 100m event. He had won a gold medal in the same event at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.
In 2012 at the London Olympic Games, Zimbabwe had two athletes Mujaji and Nyasha Mharakurwa for wheelchair tennis.