NATIONAL Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president Tendai Tagara has condemned the participation of a nine-year-old boy Obey Makamu in the PPC Matopos 33-miler (53km) ultra-marathon on Saturday, which amounted to gross abuse of the minor.
While there might have been celebrations and admiration for Makamu’s ability to take part and complete the race meant for men and women, it is his tender age that has raised serious questions and is in violation of the NAAZ and international statutes governing such races.
It has emerged that most marathons require one to be 18 as a minimum age to compete.
And in this instance it was an ultra-marathon, which is a gruelling and endurance event.
“I wasn’t there at the race but they are not allowed to run. The rule says no athlete below the age of 16 can compete in more than 10km. This is to protect their growth and physiology.
“People just take kids but we do not condone that. We don’t allow that. He should go for short distance races. This is an ultra-marathon for people over 30 years. In future we have to make decisions concerning those kids because we are encouraging the wrong thing,” said Tagara.
Recently the national association had to drop one of the junior athletes who had qualified for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships held in Uganda as one had to be over 16 years to compete.
It was not clear by yesterday, how the Bulawayo Athletics Board allowed Makamu’s registration to compete in the main race to sail through.
Tagara said the national association will engage the provincial board to have a clear picture of what happened.
“If they registered him as an athlete for the 33-Miler, they made a blunder.
We will write to the province to understand what happened. He can compete in the 5km races, 2km, we have no problem with that,” said Tagara.
Veteran sports administrator, Robert Mutsauki also expressed concern over the boy’s age.
“Certainly it’s not wise and its risky, it’s a big risk. In fact I think you will find that in terms of international races people who are under 16 years of age are not allowed to compete in international competitions of distance races. For example you can’t go and run at the Olympics or World Championships in the 10 000m.
“You have to actually protect the children. Now, that’s an extreme. That’s ultra-marathon, it’s not even marathon. Those seasoned athletes that run ultra-marathon they are usually in their twilight of competing, most of them they are over 30, they are the ones who run ultra-distance. So for a small child it’s lack of guidance.
“If he had run the first 2km or 3km and then would have been pulled out of that race, not to take pride that a nine-year-old child ran and completed the race. Do we know what damage was done or could have been done?” asked Mutsauki.
The former technical director of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa said there was need for proper guidance especially from the organisers when dealing with children of that age.
“This is a competitive race…there are supposed to be rules for races, which should talk about who qualifies to compete. So that this child should have actually been stopped from competing that particular race because it was risky for him.
“We have young athletes who ran too many races and ended up burning out. These were talented prospective long-distance runners who ended up dropping out of the sport,” Mutsauki added.
Bulawayo Athletics Board chairperson, Manuel Mpofu conceded that it was wrong for the child to be allowed to compete.
Mpofu however, could not give an explanation on how Makamu managed to compete as he said they only got to know about the nine-year-old’s participation at the end of the race.
“Those of that age are not allowed to run (in) this event. But he was registered by his father during the pre-registration…we only learnt that when he was finishing the race. We need to correct those things. We regret what happened,” Mpofu said