Confident Team Zim leaves for Brazil
TEAM Zimbabwe representing the country at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, left the country yesterday with the chef de mission Witness Magulula expressing confidence in the athletes.
The Games are running from September 7 to 18 and Zimbabwe are sending a delegation of 14 people including six athletes to compete in athletics and para-rowing.
Most of the team members left early yesterday led by Magulula while the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee president, Michael Bulagango, and secretary-general, Lewis Garaba, are expected to join the team later.
Speaking ahead of their departure on Tuesday night, Magulula said despite the fact that they will be fielding an inexperienced team, they remain optimistic that they will do well.
“When we look at the history of Zimbabwe we have got Elliot Mujaji who competed for the first time at the Games. He won medals, so it doesn’t matter you are competing for the first time or second time. Any time you compete at the Games you can also win a medal.
“We have got equal chances of having medals. We are a competing nation, we equal everyone who is there.
“We have prepared adequately for the Games so we expect to do well and with lady luck on our side, we might bring a medal to Zimbabwe,” said Magulula.
Magulula acknowledged the Government for funding the team’s trip as the National Paralympic Committee faced financial constraints.
“Our budget was around $80 000 and due to the economic situation that is currently prevailing in our country we managed to get $55 000 from the Government. Our mission is not to have more money but to go and compete and represent Zimbabwe.
“It’s unfortunate that many people we approached expressed that their budgets are tight and they have even cut their programmes. So they couldn’t support us much but we are grateful to the Government for the work they have done so far so that we are able to travel to Rio as per schedule,” said Magulula.
The para-rowing team made up of Margaret Bangajena, Previous Wiri, Takudzwa Gwariro, Michelle Garnett and Jessica Davis, who is the coxswain, will compete in the para mixed coxed four and Laina Sithole will battle it out in the T12 100m race in athletics.
Sithole has in the past represented Zimbabwe in various regional and continental events. In 2014 she won a gold medal at the Region Five Games held in Bulawayo. She had won a gold medal in the same competition in 2012, then known as the Zone Six Games, and last year she took bronze at the African Games.
Sithole said her participation in the Paralympic Games is a great achievement as every athlete wishes to represent their country at such global sporting events.
“It means a lot to me because going to the Paralympics it’s a great achievement. When I started competing I was running in the Zone Six. So my wish is to bring a gold medal back home.
“I am excited and also nervous because it’s my first time to compete in this event. But when you are an athlete you always wish to represent your country, so it’s something that was always in my mind since I discovered my talent,” said Sithole.
Her coach, Maxwell Madzure, is upbeat they can pull off a surprise in Rio.
“I think she has reached the expected fitness level for the competition. We are trying to reduce her time of 12.47s to maybe 12.25s. So we will be working on that since we have got six to seven days before the competition starts when we arrive in Rio.
“In July we went to Germany, we were comparing the times, it’s around 12.25s to 12.30s, so I think she will make it,” said Madzure.
Zimbabwe last won a medal at the Paralympic Games in 2004 in Athens, Greece.