By Trevor Makonyonga
Saturday 30 July 2021 at 1325, Zimbabweans were glued to their TV sets to watch Ngoni Makusha run. The anticipation for a win was obvious because the athlete had won convincingly in the first round. It was the congratulatory messages after that round 1 victory which proved that Zimbabweans were thirsty to celebrate a victory.
Although it seemed obvious that a podium finish was not realistic, the hope in many Zimbabweans was overwhelming. The same goes for 17 year old swimming sensation, Donata Katai; the support and congratulations after her heat victory seemed misplaced after the heartbreak that followed where her time was not good enough. Are Zimbabwean athletes or sports people that bad?
In this country it seems as if sport associations are more likely to be content with qualification rather than ensuring that they have competitive teams. Everything seems to be done haphazardly with no proper investments in the athletes. It would surprise many that the 27 year old Makusha who they were cheering for only started receiving athletics coaching after finishing high school. One would know that something is off when their athlete runs 12 seconds than the Women’s winning time. Imagine such an athlete competing with people who have trained since they were toddlers, the outcome is obvious. As for Donata, she still has more games to participate in and she could just light up the grand stage.
Zimbabwe needs to learn to prioritize schools sports and not just to leave it in the hands of non-qualified teachers. A start for the nation would be to ensure that sport activities at any school are manned by Physical Education, Sport and Mass Display teachers. From there upskilling the teachers to focus on certain sports would help. There is a lot of expertise that is not being put to good use out there. When kids learn to run the right way and technically, then the nation will have a large pool of competent athletes rather than squeezing stones to come up with five athletes to represent 14 million people. To say that only five people are good in a population of 14 million surely shows that something is not right. Of the five, there was an Olympic scholarship slot.
As a country, there is need to properly invest in sport. Unlike every other sport, athletics does not really require much expert grounds, athletes and the coaches, all of which is available in the country. Athletes should know from a young age the technical aspects of the sport and hopefully then, the culture of going to tournaments to make up numbers will subside. The country cannot keep relying on other states to develop athletes for it when there are massive untapped possibilities and great potential within Zimbabwe.
For the next Olympic games, it is very possible to start to build a team now which will participate in different meets and track and field events all over the world. What it takes is commitment from the administration and this reputation of making numbers that currently precedes us will subside.
The misfortunes are not the athletes’ fault but unfortunately they have to be strung along in a failing system. This has to be changed and it can be changed.
Congratulations to all the athletes for making it to the Olympics. Too bad that none was good enough and we just hope for future success.