BY DANIEL NHAKANISO/ MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
THE country’s Olympic athletes may have failed to bring home any medals from the Tokyo Olympic Games, but it has not been all doom and gloom for all Zimbabweans in Japan.
World renowned Zimbabwean diving coach Jane Figueiredo and physiotherapist Gareth Ziyambi were able to celebrate winning medals in Japan, albeit with the Great Britain diving team.
Ziyambi is not a stranger to Zimbabwe sport having been to two Olympic Games and All Africa Games as chief physio for the country’s elite athletes about 20 years ago.
Trained and qualified in Zimbabwe, Ziyambi also worked with the hockey, rugby, gymnastics, tennis (Davis Cup) and swimming national teams before he moved to the UK in 2004.
Ziyambi is the founder of A2Z Elite Health & Performance, has been working in elite sport in the UK for 13 years and helping Olympians and World Champions in different sport codes.
After moving to the UK, the veteran sports physiotherapist Ziyambi joined the English Institute of Sport where he got the opportunity to work in athletics, boxing, volleyball and table tennis in that country.
And now he takes care of newly crowned Olympics diving gold medalists Tom Daley and Matty Lee, who ironically are both coached by Zimbabwe-born Figueiredo.
Figueredo, who is widely acknowledged as one of the finest diving coaches in the world, capped another feather in her cap after seeing two of her athletes stand atop the podium at the Tokyo Olympics after they claimed the gold medal in the men’s Synchronized 10-meter Platform.
She led the duo of Daley and Lee to Olympic gold by a margin of just 1.23 points and overall score of 471.81.
With three dives left and sitting in third-place, the duo picked up 93.96 points in the fourth round to move to the top of the standings and pipping China.
Yesterday Dailey capped off a successful campaign in Tokyo by claiming the bronze medal in the men’s 10m platform.
Much of Great Britain’s success has been due to the contribution of Zimbabwe-born Figueiredo who is currently the head diving coach at the High Performance Centre in London and coach to Daley.
The Tokyo games mark yet another successful trip to the Olympics for the Zimbabwean coaching legend.
She was born in Harare and competed for the country of her birth at the 1982 world championships.
Two years later, Figueiredo dived at the 1984 Los Angeles Games for Portugal due to her eligibility to represent the European nation through the origins of her father’s family.
“So I started in Zimbabwe, and then the diving community in the country at that time was incredible. We had a slew of amazing divers that were all competing internationally, already going to the Olympic Games. We had an incredible culture of diving, so being in that environment encouraged us to try to get better,” Figueredo said recently.
She added: “I dove for Portugal in the 1984 Olympics and not Zimbabwe.
“The reason that came about was because my dad was Portuguese, and I was now living in the States and had a Portuguese passport. We reached out because I wasn’t going to be moving back to Zimbabwe, because my parents had moved from Zim to South Africa, so we lost pretty much all contact with the Zim federation. So we reached out to the Portuguese federation, and they were just amazing. They knew my story, my history. I went and competed at several comps in order to qualify, and they picked me and I dove for Portugal at the 1984 Games in LA.
“That began my Olympic journey.”
After representing Portugal at the 1984 Olympic Games, Figueredo has coached at the global showpiece dating back to 1996.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, Figueiredo was the coach of Russia’s Pakhalina and Ilynia, who captured gold medals in the women’s 3-metre synchronized diving.
Figueiredo was the Russian diving coach at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, where she guided Pakhalina and the other Russian divers. Pakhalina and Vera Ilyina combined to win a silver medal in synchronized diving, while Pakhalina captured a bronze medal with her performance on the 3-metre springboard.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, she guided one of her current student-athlete divers Anastasia Pozdniakova and Pakhalina to a silver medal in the 3-metre synchronized springboard event. Pakhalina also took silver in the 3-metre springboard event.
In addition to her success with Russia, Figueiredo was previously the head coach of the diving programme at the University of Houston.
Seven years ago Figueiredo accepted the position of head coach of the British Diving High Performance Centre in London, where she would later team up with another Zimbabwean, Ziyambi to help script Great Britain’s success story in Tokyo.