By Brian Nkiwane
TWENTY parents in Harare and other surrounding areas have joined hands in an effort to identify and develop swimming talent in the country with Brazil 2016 Olympic Games in mind.
The parents, most of them with children that are among the 20-member squad of young boys and girls, have come up with a programme which, if implemented well, could help Zimbabwe produce icons such as Kirsty Coventry.
The project has been in the pipeline for the past three years but only took off in January this year.
Speaking to Standardsport, one family said as parents they have been inspired by the commitment their children put into the sport to start such a noble cause.
“We have since discovered that swimming, like any other sport in Zimbabwe, has been lacking funding, the reason that forced us as parents to chip in and assist these kids in achieving their goals. My daughter (17) was inspired by Coventry some eight years ago but she just told us that she would want to be like Kirsty one day, so we have to make sure that she gets maximum support,” said the mother.
The parents have gone a step further in making sure the kids are under professionals all the time.
“The programme will be conducted under the guidance of a dedicated and professional swimming coach, alongside a separate land training programme applying the latest sports scientific techniques, as well as exposing our swimmers more frequently to international competitions. There is little reason why our top swimmers shouldn’t benefit greatly in the future.”
The two also spoke about the dwindling facilities in the country, which they said was the major reason why the country was losing a number of good swimmers to other countries.
“We still have good swimming facilities even though they need a facelift but most of them cannot be compared to state-of-the-art facilities that we find in other neighbouring countries which have continued to lure our swimmers right from their tender age and more so, these kids are offered scholarships programmes.”
The two parents also spoke about the loneliness of the sport and the need to have the kids training together.
“The other important thing we have discovered is that these kids need time to train together. That is why we came up with a programme that will see them training together beginning September.”
Some of the top swimmers that are part of this programme are Sloane Marshall, Lebo Ngwenya, Tarryn Rennie, Shanice Buys, Megan Carey-Smith and Ratidzo Mutangadura, to name a few.
The majority of the swimmers in this squad are national representatives and have qualified for this programme with excellent personal best times achieved at international galas throughout last season.
The programme also incorporates a few younger members who have shown great potential and capability in the pool and will become part of the succession planning that has been put in place.
This programme comes hot on the heels of a poor show at the just ended Olympic Games in London where the country came back empty-handed despite the athletes putting maximum effort.
The parents have appealed to the government and the corporate world to support such a noble idea that is set to produce gems in the swimming world.