Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
WITH several major competitions lined up for next year, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe have a busy programme ahead of them and their season is expected to get underway this weekend in Harare.
They get down to business with the National Season Opener track and field championships this Sunday at the National Sports Stadium B Arena with all provinces, schools, clubs and colleges invited to take part.
The major highlight for 2020 are the Olympic Games to take place from July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo, Japan.
But apart from the Olympics, there is also the Africa Senior Championships in Algeria and the World Under-20 Championships in Kenya.
Zimbabwe will also be hoping to compete at the World Half Marathon in Poland in March having sent two athletes for the previous edition last year.
Athletes will also be bracing for several regional and local events lined-up for the year.
NAAZ director for coaching, talent identification and development Lisimati Phakamile said it’s not going to be an easy road but he remains optimistic.
“The year 2020 is a tough year. It’s the Olympic cycle, which is going to see a lot of professional athletes, top athletes competing as hard as they can.
“We have a tough period coming up ahead of us especially looking at the high standards the Olympics are requiring or are demanding for one to be able to attend that event. The Olympic qualifying standards are quite tough and are quite stiff.
“But we remain focused and we keep our heads high as National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe.
“It’s important that as a coach, as athletes we lose on the day of the race not on paper. We are not going to accept that we are going to lose on paper. But we are going to keep fighting. We are going to keep training hard and try to challenge those standards that have been set,” said Phakamile. Phakamile said they also have to look at the other various competitions lined-up for the year with most of the competitions, including the Africa Senior Championships, coming before the Olympics.
And is a chance for athletes to also compete for qualification.
“We are also looking at the Africa Senior Championships that are going to be held in Algeria, which will be our last attempt for qualification before the Olympics.
“There are also many other regional championships. We have the South African Series that is coming up, we have the Botswana International meet, so we have a number of competitions that are coming up and we hope our athletes will be performing well there and trying to qualify,” said Phakamile. Some of the athletes earmarked for major events next year such as the Olympics are currently in South Africa for a training camp that started early this month and is running until January 8. The six athletes are Ngoni Makusha, Tatenda Tsumba, Itayi Vambe, Dickson Kamungeremu, Norman Mukwada and Dickson Kapandura.
Makusha, Tsumba, Vambe and Kamungeremu are also members of the 4x100m relay team that had some promising results early this year and hopes are that they can make the Olympic Games. NAAZ president Tendai Tagara said they have also put in place plans for the juniors that will be vying for qualification for the world meet in Kenya.
“We set a target of 10 athletes to qualify. Clubs set targets and some have had camps for example Nyanga athletes had theirs there, Matabeleland South and Harare clubs did the same. We then have targeted competitions and we are going to have two foreign competitions for them in South Africa and Botswana.
“We want to have the first qualified group of athletes announced in mid-March so that they start to focus on the event and then end of April another group. We want to have a camp between April and May specifically for Kenya.
“For the Olympics we also want to support marathon athletes with their travelling expenses to compete outside for qualification. Their managers will look for fast courses and as the federation we will support with the little that we have.
“Those in USA have controlled environment because of scholarships but we hope we will get some who qualify under the NCAA calendar,” said Tagara.