ELEVEN months ago Zimbabwean sprinter Gabriel Mvumvure was living his dream as he lined up with some of the world’s best athletes at the greatest sporting stage — the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
It was the realisation of a lifelong dream for the former Churchill High School student, who had for over a decade selflessly represented the country from the junior ranks to some of the world’s biggest competitions with honour.
But after his return from Rio de Janeiro, Mvumvure was diagnosed with a kidney problem due to high blood pressure and was told he needed a kidney transplant, bringing his promising career to a grinding halt.
Since then life has never been the same again for Mvumvure, who at a time he expected to be working towards taking his career to the next level, he suddenly found himself battling for his life.
“It was around October, I just started feeling like I had stomach pains. I was getting sick, nauseous, fevers, and I felt like I was about to pass out. So then the paramedics got called and took me to the hospital,” Mvumvure recalled.
“One doctor in the hospital told me you have about five or six years. That’s what he’s seen in young people. And I would love, and believe I have a life ahead of me.”
Doctors hoped to manage the illness, but after weeks of severe health issues that prompted repeated emergency dialysis sessions, Mvumvure’s nephrologist in November last year decided he needed a transplant.
His former college, Louisiana State University, through the Tiger Athletic Foundation, have been trying to raise US$250 000 for the kidney transplant and the medical care he needs after the surgery.
Six months ago, the 28-year-old athlete also set up an online campaign to raise funds for the medical expenses which so far has raised $19 714 with 195 people from around the world donating to the cause.
Mvumvure, who is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last week, told his fans on social media that he had begun the process of undergoing the kidney transplant after medical check-ups.
“At the medical centre doing some more testing,” Mvumvure wrote. “The transplant process is long and tedious. Even though this is just the beginning with months to go, I am grateful it has begun but I can’t wait until it’s all over. Thank you all for your donations and getting me this far. The fight is still ongoing so please continue supporting, praying and sharing. God bless,” he said.
One of the top sprinters the country has produced in recent years, Mvumvure was one of the beneficiaries of a development programme called World Wide Scholarships, which has placed a number of local athletes in American universities in sports like athletics, tennis, soccer and field hockey.
The programme was founded by a former Penn State sprinter and football player, Munya Maraire.
Mvumvure started his career as a young sprinter in Kwekwe before moving to Churchill High School in Harare, where he joined WWS.
After becoming the African junior champion in the 100 (10,45) and the 200 (20,91), in 2007 Mvumvure’s breakthrough came later that year when he travelled to the US together with a group of WWS runners to the Penn Relays.
It was at the meet that Mvumvure secured a scholarship to attend LSU following in the footsteps of countryman and former national record holder Fabian Muyaba, who won the Southeastern Conference title in the 100m for the Tigers in 1993.
While studying international studies and political science in his time as a student, he helped the LSU Tigers continue their proud tradition of excellence on the track, while being crowned an SEC and NCAA champion in the 4×100-metre relay in his freshman season.
Mvumvure would go on to earn three All-America honours, as a member of LSU’s sprint relay team, while also starring in the 100m and 200m dashes in his four seasons in Baton Rouge from 2008 to 2011.
In 2013 he became only the second Zimbabwean to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m after clocking 9,98 in Montverde, US.