Just three weeks before the Rio Olympics roar into life, the Zimbabwe Olympics Committee (ZOC) says preparations for the world sport’s biggest showpiece are at an advanced stage.
BY TAWANDA TADERERA
Zimbabwe is preparing to send the second largest Olympic team in history to represent the country in Brazil.
As many as 31 athletes have qualified for the Games, 11 short of the 42 that flew the country’s flag high at the Moscow Olympics in 1980.
Interestingly, like in 1980, this year’s squad includes one team sport squad, after the Mighty Warriors qualified for the first time. In Moscow, Zimbabwe had the women’s hockey team that went on to win gold.
Team Zimbabwe chef de mission Titus Zvomuya, said he expected all athletes to be competitive.
“ZOC expects every team and athlete to be competitive. All the athletes that are going to Rio are going there through qualification,” he said.
“That means they are already in the elite league in their respective disciplines. I am confident that each athlete and team will give a good account of themselves.
“Essentially, preparations for any athlete targeting the Olympics begin soon after the last previous event which in this case is London 2012 as part of their personal performance plan.
“From a ZOC support perspective, their intervention was activated with the commencement of the Olympic Scholarship programme in August 2014,” Zvomuya added.
There is representation in several sporting disciplines such as athletics, equestrian, archery, rowing, swimming, shooting and football.
Zvomuya revealed that the team would start departing in batches at the end of the month.
Zimbabwe’s top-ranked male archer Gavin Sutherland will be the first archer to represent the country at the Olympics since Wrex Tarr’s appearance in Seoul, South Korea, 28 years ago.
Zvomuya expressed excitement at the fact that the Mighty Warriors will be participating at the Olympics for the first time, but said he was worried about lack of support for the team.
“The issue of resources has been a major challenge given the economic environment that we find ourselves in,” he said.
“ZOC also expected some key stakeholders to come on board in respect to the preparations but some have not been forthcoming due to a number of reasons.”
“Special thanks to Bindura University of Science Education, the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Sport and Recreation, who came to the Mighty Warriors’ aid as the team was struggling to come into camp,” Zvomuya added.
“Indeed, the issue of the Mighty Warriors was a worrying factor. A number of meetings were held and in one of the meetings we had the Minister of Sport and Recreation [Makhosini Hlongwane] — just to make sure that this important area was given due attention by the parties concerned.”
Zvomuya said swimmer Kirsty Coventry is once again expected to fly the flag high for the country.
“We are grateful that Kirsty Coventry has qualified and will be flying the flag high for Zimbabwe and we are proud of her,” he said.
Michael Nicholson qualified by winning the African Championship in Cairo in November 2015 with a score of 120 and also represented Zimbabwe at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games in the double trap shooting by virtue of having accepted an invitation from the International Shooting Sport Federation, based on his performance at the African Championships.
Marathon runners Wirimayi Juwawo, Pardon Ndhlovu, Gilbert Mutandiro and Cuthbert Nyasango will be joined by sprinters Gabriel Mvumvure and Tatenda Tsumba.
Two rowers Micheen Thornycroft and Peter Purcell-Gilpin have also qualified for the Games.
The team will be presented to Hlongwane at a fundraising dinner at Rainbow Towers on Wednesday evening.