THE National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (Naaz) has begun a nurturing programme of junior athletes as they prepare to send at least six athletes to the 2016 Olympic Games.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Following a 2012 London Olympics outing where only two marathoners made it in Team Zimbabwe with no track and field athletes, Naaz is moving to banish that poor record.
The local athletics mother body is placing its efforts on junior and youth athletes in international meets to expose them to high-level competition.
Naaz’s immediate target is July’s World Junior Championships which would be held in the USA. The association wants to use the championships as a step towards developing the young athletes.
Last year, only two athletes were sent to the World Youth Championships in Ukraine. More athletes are expected to qualify for the Junior Championships with high hopes pinned on sprinters Michael Songore and Ruvarashe Muzinde as well as Nyasha Mutsetse who is a specialist in 800 and 1 500-metre races.
The boys have to meet the qualifying standards of 10.55 and 21.50 seconds in 100 and 200 metres respectively, while the girls’ bar has been set at 11.90 seconds for 100 metres and 24.50 seconds for 200 metres.
Middle-distance runners will battle to fit into the 1:50.50 minutes grade for 800 metres and 3:48.00 minutes in the 1500 metres event by the July 15 qualification deadline.
Naaz president Tendai Tagara said they would have to rely on regional competitions for qualification races.
“Right now we are focusing more on youngsters because we are targeting on having at least six athletes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. We have youngsters with great potential so the future looks bright,” said Tagara.
“The problem is that we do not have the electronic timing system here in Zimbabwe which is a requisite in qualifying races. That is why we are relying on regional races especially in South Africa or Botswana where they have electronic timings. But we will have our own [systems] by the end of this year from government since we would be required to have one at the Zone VI Games which we would be hosting.”
Long-distance runners Cuthbert Nyasango and Wirimai Zhuwawo are expected to give a shot at qualifying for Rio 2016 while US-based sprinters Ngonidzashe Makusha and Gabriel Mvumvure would also be around.
Another US-based sprinter, Tinashe Mutanga, is a future prospect, as is Francis Zimwara.