The 2016 Olympic Games have come and gone but not forgotten by disappointed Zimbabwean sports fans, who welcomed back home their empty-handed athletes.
The athletes came back with the same old excuses of short training time and lack of international exposure on top of other explanations.
Athletes who put smiles on Zimbaweans’ faces are swimmer Kirsty Coventry who finished 6th in the women’s 200 metres back stroke and rower Micheen Thornycroft who finished 10th in her event.
It was saddening to see Wirimai Juwao, who finished 12th at the London Olympics four years ago failing to complete this year’s men’s marathon in Rio with the country’s top male runner Cuthbert Nyasango, who came 7th in London finishing a distant 58th.
Zimbabwe’s top female marathon runner Rutendo Nyahora did not fare any better in the women’s marathon after finishing a distant 92nd.
For the second time Zimbabwe ended its campaign without winning any medals and this should be the time for some serious introspection by all local sports stakeholders.
The same thing happened in London four years ago, when the Zimbabwe team returned home empty-handed.
In London Zimbabwe sent a record lowest number of athletes [seven in four disciplines], but although this time around there was a significant increase in the number of athletes in the team it did not make any difference.
With the exception of Coventry, only Brian Dzingai and Ngonidzashe Makusha, who finished 4th in the 200m and long jump at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, have come close to winning medals at the Olympics.
The other top performances by Zimbabweans at the Olympics was Tendai Chimusasa’s 9th place finish in the marathon at Sydney 2000 before it was bettered by Nyasango (7th) in 2012.
And yet again the nation’s hopes of winning any medals in Rio were on Coventry, adding to her already impressive medal haul.
Coventry, who bid farewell to her Olympic career in Rio de Janeiro, has won seven of the eight medals Zimbabwe has won since Independence in 1980.
The decorated swimmer has won two gold medals, four silver, and one bronze, over two Olympics held in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008).
Zimbabwe’s other gold medal was won by the national women’s hockey team affectionately known as the Golden Girls at the 1980 Moscow Games which were boycotted by some countries.
Despite such a glorious past, events on the ground suggest that the future of Zimbabwean sport is bleak as little or nothing is being done to support its growth and facilities are derelict.
While other countries, including our neighbours South Africa and Botswana have invested heavily in state-of-the-art sporting infrastructure, nationwide identification programmes and high perfomance initiatives, nothing was being done by Zimbabwe.
While Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane attributed Zimbabwe’s poor showing at the recent Olympics to poor planning, it’s clear our problems go beyond that.
There is need for us to go back to the basics and start rebuilding from the grassroots.
There is need to identify and nurture talent, while exposing athletes to regional and international competitions.
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