insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
The resumption of football continues to dominate the headlines, but nothing has been said about the rescheduled Summer Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo, Japan, next year — the biggest sporting event in the world.
Other countries have hit the ground running in preparation for this sporting extravaganza, but nothing so far has taken off the ground in as far as Zimbabwe is concerned.
Ironically, Zimbabwe were a big disappointment at the last edition of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where the national team came back home empty-handed and a lot of excuses including lack of international experience and short training time.
In fact, Zimbabwe does not have a proud record in this competition where since 1980 the country has won only eight medals, seven of them from one athlete, swimmer Kirsty Coventry.
The other medal — a gold — came from the women’s hockey team at the 1980 games in Moscow, but it should be placed on record that the 1980 games were less competitive after a number of countries boycotted the festival.
The question is: How do we expect our athletes to get that international experience and training time when they are not taking part in major international competitions?
Week in, week out we see athletes from South Africa, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco in the highly competitive IAAF Diamond League meetings, but not a single Zimbabwean.
The last time a Zimbabwean was competing consistently on the IAAF Diamond League circuit was six or so years ago when long jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha was the star of the show, but sadly he was forced into early retirement due to injuries.
If Zimbabweans are not in that league because they do not meet the qualifying standards, then we need to ask ourselves what exactly we are doing to develop our sportspersons in this country.
How can we expect medals at the Olympic Games when our athletes are not meeting the standards of participating in the IAAF World Championships or the Diamond League?
Where do we expect them to get that international exposure or the chance to compare their performance against the rest of the world when they are always competing among themselves?
The problem with our sport in Zimbabwe is that we tend to do our things at the last minute. The Summer Olympic Games are just around the corner from July 23 to August 8, 2021, but sadly, the authorities have been spending more of their time on football as of it is the only sport around.
By now, athletes for the forthcoming Olympic Games should have been identified and given the chance and funding to regularly compete on the international arena.
By now, we would have had a rough idea on who to expect a good show from and how most of the financial resources should be spent on as part of the preparations for the sporting festival.
The government through the Sport and Recreation Commission (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee ) ZOC), needs to provide the funding for our athletes’ international participation since they would be flying the Zimbabwean flag.
This is to prepare them for the rigours and pressures associated with the Olympic Games where participation only is no longer an achievement as was the case in the past, but winning medals.
The fact remains that the government can only come and chip in when asked to and it is the duty of the Sports Ministry, the SRC and the ZOC to see to it that happens.
Zimbabwe cannot continue to feature in the Olympic Games and come back with nothing, but excuses. We cannot be behind the likes of Botswana, whose athletes are creating waves on the international scene.
We need medals, and we can only achieve that by financially supporting our athletes’ regular international participation against the best the world has to offer. Sadly, though, we do not seem to be serious about our goals or sporting ambitions.
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