More re­sources needed in sport

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

THE 2016 Sum­mer Olympics ended in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sun­day as they started in true samba style at Mara­cana Sta­dium. The games started on Au­gust 5, with 11 544 ath­letes troop­ing into the Brazil­ian city to com­pete in 28 sport­ing dis­ci­plines. Zim­babwe was rep­re­sented by 31 ath­letes who com­peted in seven codes swim­ming, foot­ball, ath­let­ics, row­ing, shoot­ing, archery and eques­trian. They were ac­com­pa­nied by 26 of­fi­cials.

A lot was ex­pected of the coun­try’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives with much fo­cus on swim­mer, Kirsty Coven­try. She is the coun­try’s most dec­o­rated Olympian with seven medals she won in 2004 in Athens, Greece and 2008 in Bei­jing, China. Her seven medals are more than any other African has won in any sport at the Olympics. In Rio she had the added hon­our of be­ing the team’s flag bearer.

How­ever, at 32, Coven­try isn’t grow­ing any faster, but slower. Her best per­for­mance was thus fin­ish­ing sixth in the 200 back­stroke fi­nal.

None of the 31 ath­letes had a podium fin­ish although as a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee ath­letes’ com­mis­sion, Coven­try was, from time to time, asked to hand over medals dur­ing the games.

That her sixth place in the 200 back­stroke fi­nal was ac­tu­ally the best per­for­mance by any of Zim­babwe’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Rio demon­strates the pa­thetic show our rep­re­sen­ta­tives posted at the games but should serve as yet an­other valu­able les­son for the coun­try for the next Olympics in 2020, in Tokyo, Ja­pan and other ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions.

The Mighty War­riors flew to the games amid much public ad­mi­ra­tion, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties they over­came in qual­i­fy­ing. It ap­pears no one was pre­pared to sup­port them, there­fore coach Shadreck Mlauzi was alone with his band of part-timers. They gen­er­ated a good amount of in­ter­est in Rio for their ster­ling work against big­ger names at the games Ger­many, Aus­tralia and Canada. The ladies had no proper kit or train­ing pitch ahead of the games. In ad­di­tion, they started their prepa­ra­tions very late.

The lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional me­dia ac­tu­ally praised them for man­ag­ing to score a goal in their first game at the global stage although they ended up los­ing 1-6 to Ger­many. They lost again in their sec­ond match, 1- 3 to Canada and signed off with an­other 1-6 loss, to Aus­tralia.

In ath­let­ics, Tatenda Tsumba, Par­don Ndlovu, Cuth­bert Nyasango and Gabriel Mvumvure per­formed poorly with Wir­i­mai Juwawo fail­ing to fin­ish the marathon. Gavin Suther­land failed in archery, as did Camilla Kruger in eques­trian.

In row­ing Micheen Thorny­croft (women) and An­drew Pee­bles (men) com­peted in the fi­nals, fin­ish­ing 11th and 25th re­spec­tively.

It was a poor Olympics for the coun­try. Now is the time for the Gov­ern­ment, ath­letes and the cor­po­rate sec­tor to put their heads to­gether to en­sure that they in­vest in sport for the coun­try to pro­duce gen­uine medal hope­fuls in the post-Coven­try era.

Zim­babwe does not have a prob­lem of lack of tal­ent. There is much of it all over the coun­try. The main prob­lem is the lack of fi­nan­cial sup­port from the Gov­ern­ment, sports as­so­ci­a­tions and the cor­po­rate sec­tor to iden­tify and nur­ture that tal­ent and mo­ti­vate and equip ath­letes for them to be able to com­pete at the top level.

Mvumvure who com­peted in the men’s 100m and fin­ished sev­enth in his heat ap­pealed for the Gov­ern­ment to put more re­sources into sport.

“I wish the Gov­ern­ment would get a lit­tle more in­volved in ath­letes, arts and other peo­ple’s lives be­cause when you come here you want to do the best to rep­re­sent your coun­try,” he told our sis­ter pa­per The Her­ald re­cently.

“You don’t want to just come here and you are out in the first round. So I am just plead­ing with the Gov­ern­ment or any min­is­ters or min­istries to be able to sup­port more sports peo­ple be­cause it’s hard to come to the Olympics. You have to go through so many things, in­juries and all that stuff.

“I know I train with some ath­letes from dif­fer­ent parts of the world and Trinidad, for ex­am­ple, their ath­letes when­ever you make an Olympic team or world cham­pi­onship team you get a lit­tle stipend from your coun­try, from the Min­istry of Sports. And that helps them to have a lit­tle some­thing to look for­ward to, to keep work­ing and all the other things like the ex­penses you in­cur as an ath­lete. You will be able to ac­tu­ally get taken care of and you are not look­ing re­ally for a hand­out to say here is this money and do what­ever you do. But a lit­tle con­ve­nience and to help out with the ex­penses you in­cur as an ath­lete is re­ally help­ful.”

There is no doubt that his views res­onate with his com­pa­tri­ots who flopped like him in Rio and many oth­ers who have failed be­fore.

This lack of in­vest­ment is the main rea­son why the men’s se­nior cricket team are now a joke in their dis­ci­pline, and why we don’t ex­pect much from the War­riors at the 2017 African Cup of Na­tions fi­nals. Their big­gest achieve­ment has been qual­i­fy­ing. It is the rea­son why top-class ten­nis is no more in Zim­babwe. We now have a sports pol­icy, whose ab­sence some ar­gued con­trib­uted to the poor per­for­mances of na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tives at in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. The pol­icy is meant to stim­u­late greater Gov­ern­ment at­ten­tion to sports, de­velop tal­ent from ten­der ages in a more sys­tem­atic man­ner, and bring more money from the pri­vate sec­tor into sport and so on.

We are hope­ful but a pol­icy only makes sense if it is ad­e­quately fi­nanced and im­ple­mented fully to pro­duce the in­tended re­sults.

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