Bhekuzulu Khumalo: A doctor of sport
From Page L6 country were searching for their maps to establish where we were,” said Khumalo.
It was about the same time Roy Phiri and his province the provincial athletics boss were being sponsored by United Bottlers (Coca-Cola) later to be Delta Beverages.
The company supported one of the best road running clubs in the country and sponsored a number of activities in athletics.
Khumalo found himself competing for glory with Amandlethu’s James Rugwevera, a Lupane school, Hwange’s Rocket Ndlovu, Martin Ncube’s Tohwe from Matobo, Samukeliso Moyo’s coach from Ntepe Secondary School for recognition.
Harare’s Kuwadzana No 2 High School had Benson Chauke with athletes like Cuthbert Nyasango, Jane Makombe and Faith Kamangira coming up between then and 2003.
“Athletics then was quite exciting. We had all the reasons as young coaches to want to be there. There were enough events and motivation to drive you as a coach and athlete such as the Coca-Cola events, Vaseline Half Marathon and Old Mutual 10km Series.
“It was just an exciting period for athletics that promised so much and delivered lots of competition among us young coaches motivated by generations that had Artwell Mandaza, Tapfumaneyi Jonga and the late Zephania Ncube as our heroes,” said the Doctor.
Khumalo worked with athletes who saw him being plucked from Umguza/Bubi to Bulawayo without much hassle.
“It was after 1995 All-Africa Games where I acted as a liaison officer that a message was sent to me through Insuza Police that I was wanted in Bulawayo.
“I had interacted with Bulawayo Provincial Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Webster Sibanda during All-Africa Games.
“I was given three schools to choose from and I opted for Sikhulile because it was close to my Lobengula West home,” said the Nust lecturer who owes what he is to his liking for athletics.
He said Phethindaba Sibanda, Priscilla Sibanda and Flathele Ncube were his first recruits at Sigonde who in 1993 were among seven runners from the school to make it to national finals.
“For an unheralded rural school, that feat was big,” he said.
Some of the athletes followed him in 1996 when he switched to Sikhulile, acting as his foundation.
“Getting to a new school with these athletes made it easy for me to settle down. The school had its own heroes who made the coach’s work easier but when I came with a new ideology they did wonders for me. Sikhulile began to be known as a conveyor belt of great talent in athletics,” said Doctor Khumalo.
Over the years Khumalo was to produce Xolani Nkiwane (14 minutes 41 seconds) in the 5 000m whose 3 000m time set in Hungary still stands as the national 3 000m record, 17 years after his rise, Sikhulile Sibanda, Ishmael Nyandoro, Teurayi Chinguwa, Daliso Nkambule, Nobuhle Ncube, Kudzani Tengani, long jump hero Likhwa Ncube and Takesure Mlambo.
“I was happy to see some of these athletes get a life. Mines, big corporates and uniformed services employed some of the athletes on a full-time basis.
“To have contributed to their lives after the track and road is something I have lived to savour,” said the former Lobengula Sparrows coach whose grounding may have gotten a high lift with two years spent in Cuba teacher training in 1989 and 1990.
To have had companies and individuals paying school fees for some of the athletes was a crowning moment for Khumalo.
The 1990s and early 2000s will remain entrenched in his sporting resume.
“Athletics needed new heroes on the track and coaches. We were young and inexperienced and pushed by competition among ourselves.
“Most 800m events to marathons became a fiefdom for Samukeliso Moyo of Mungwari Joseph and Christine Ncube’s Pionners Club, Amandlethu, Sikhulile/ Sparrows and Ben Chauke’s Kuwadzana.
“We dominated with a genuinely new crop of athletes who changed the landscape and it is no doubt that the likes of Samu Moyo, Jane Makombe, Faith Kamangira, Siphulwazi Sibindi, Cuthbert Nyasango, Message Mapfumo, Singazi Dube, Margaret Mahohoma to mention a few have been the best talents in middle and long distance running,” he added.
The above crop holds several records and has won races across Africa and abroad with Nyasango’s 2 hours eight minutes posted at the London Olympics the best ever marathon time by a Zimbabwean.
Khumalo said they put in a lot of hours to breed the best athletes and had supportive heads, wives, family and colleagues.
Their contribution as a block cannot be ignored in Zimbabwean athletics.
The sports doctor said he would not have contributed as much as he did without the support of his wife, Catherine, a sports major at both Hillside Teachers College and university.
“My wife was so supportive, playing host to a number of athletics kids at our three-roomed home then, without her support I would not have risen and done half the things I did in the sport,” he said.
In his tenure in athletics in the province he was able to coach the team to national titles, guide Zimbabwe to a Southern Africa gold medal podium position and produce through his club a number of national icons.
Khumalo, a former pupil at Bungwe Primary School, Cyrene and Thekwane High School said he was a 400m runner and horizontal jumps fanatic. It is, however, in the one lap event that he found himself at home.
In the 1980s he was among the first group of Zimbabweans to train in Cuba for science teaching degrees. He could not complete his training there due to ill-health that forced his return.
However, he found himself at Mutare Teacher’s College between 1989 and 1991 where he was active in football coaching.
Once in Matabeleland North he found himself switching to athletics.
“In Cuba education sport is compulsory. I advanced my interest in both athletics and football and saw how science and technology came together towards excellency in sport.
“Guided by some of the things I learnt there I tried implementing some of them and now after progression as a coach, athletics official and sporting academic I am convinced both have a role in sport,” said Khumalo.
Khumalo said the uptake of science and sport in the country was still low.
“We can enhance our performances through adoption of science and technology and improved sports management.”
A qualified International Association of Athletics Federations coach, official and lecturer, the doctor was able to join Nust and advance himself to the level he is at now.
He lectured sports science at United College and Hillside Teachers College before joining Nust as a technician in 2004.
He was to advance himself to Masters level in Belgium and Ireland before his doctorate in South Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
“Science and technology matched with a modern type of administration that uses science in both identification and nurturing of talent is what our sports need going forward,” said Khumalo.
He bemoaned the current situation where there are no clear-cut development programmes in national sport.