Since Zimbabwe was admitted to international sport in 1980, the country has been sending athletes to the Olympic Games, the All Africa Games, as well as the World Championships, but the results have not been very encouraging.
By Michael Kariati
Zimbabwe has only eight medals to show for their 34 years of participation at the Olympic Games, and only one medal — gold from the Golden Girls hockey team of 1980 — was won by someone who is not Kirsty Coventry.
Coventry is the only individual who has managed to keep the Zimbabwean flag high with two golds, four silvers, and a bronze, but in those 34 years, only long jumper Ngoni Makusha who finished fourth at the 2008 Olympics has come closer to a medal.
What is even more disturbing is the fact that in those years Zimbabwe has been spending a lot of money sending too many athletes to the Olympics but most of them have returned home with a lot of excuses.
The statistics are there to prove a point. In 1980, Zimbabwe sent 42 athletes to the Olympic Games and only one medal was realised. In 1984, there were 15 athletes on the trip to Los Angeles and all of them came back home empty handed.
There was an increase at the Seoul Games as Zimbabwe sent 29 participants and once again, the athletes came back home with nothing, and the same thing happened at the Barcelona Games four years later when Zimbabwe was represented by 19 athletes.
Thirteen went to Atlanta and 13 to Sydney in 2000 but still nothing came out of their participation. Not a good record.
It has become common whenever our athletes return home from the Olympics or the All Africa Games, to get excuses that include short preparatory time or explanations that ‘we had gone there to learn and gain international exposure.’
For how long will Zimbabwean athletes continue to be on a learning curve, or out for international exposure? Why spend money on those athletes by sending them to competitions where they are no hopers.
It is, however, heartening to hear Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) deputy director general Joseph Muchechetere say Zimbabwe is not going to send quantity to the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville in September but would be sending athletes whom they strongly believe will bring back medals.
This is admission on the part of the sport’s governing body that Zimbabwe has been randomly picking athletes for major international competitions instead of sending only those with the potential or ability to win medals.
Muchechetere added Zimbabwe would be sending only those athletes who meet the international qualifying standards for the All Africa Games instead of athletes who show potential but are still to prove themselves.
This is a bold statement because gone are the days when countries took part in international competitions for friendship, camaraderie or fun.
These days it’s not just about participating but winning.
The chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) Anna Mguni buttressed Muchechetere’s line of thinking, saying the ZOC were going to cut the number of those going to both the All Africa Games and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Let’s look at Kenya for example; the Kenyans are very good in middle and long distance running, so they take their best middle and long distance runners to international competitions and not athletes from disciplines where they have proved not to be good enough.
This has resulted in Kenya’s presence being noticed by everyone.
It means if we have an up- to standard tennis player in the form of Takanyi Garanganga or an excellent swimmer in the form of Coventry but do not have good track and field athletes, then the most crucial decision would be to pick Garanganga and Coventry and leave out the track and field athletes.
The financial resources available should now be channelled towards preparations for the few athletes identified for the impending major international competitions.
We need to follow proven practice. There is no need for Zimbabwe to take 100 athletes to the All Africa Games when only 20 are capable of winning medals.
Let’s pick the 20 and give them the right platform to succeed.
The latest developments coming from such seasoned administrators as Mguni and Muchechetere show that Zimbabwe could perhaps be moving in the right direction.
But will they stick to their word?
Ghana are doing it too, Those who thought that it is only in Zimbabwe where footballers are flocking to betting houses were wrong. In Ghana, football authorities are battling to stop the increased number of players from their top-flight league who are seeking fortunes on football bets.
The situation has reached high levels in the West African country to the extent that the football authorities want to have it enshrined in their constitution that footballers be banned from placing bets on football.
Just like in Zimbabwe, there is no law in Ghana that prevents football players from placing their bets on football. But that should not be an excuse for footballers to get involved in gambling, especially if it means betting on a game in which they are participants.
l For views, comments, and suggestions, email: email@example.com or WhatsApp on 077 3 266 779.