Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry has said they are looking at creating better partnerships with the private sector to ensure there is adequate support for national teams and athletes representing the country in various competitions.
Coventry was the guest of honour at Team Zimbabwe’s welcome reception at Belvedere Technical Teachers College following the team’s adventure at the African Union Sports Council Region Five Under-20 Youth Games in Botswana.
Zimbabwe finished fifth out of the 10 countries that took part in this regional competition where they picked 51 medals — nine gold, 13 silver and 29 bronze.
In welcoming back the team, Coventry said it was pleasing to see young athletes raising the country’s flag high and indicated that one of her ministry’s goals is to form partnerships with the private sector to help support them.
“My door and the ministry is always open. We want to hear the things that you are doing. We want to hear about your training and how that’s going in your preparations for the next Games and we want to stay involved.
“And at the same time we know that in order to achieve something you can’t achieve it by yourself. You always have to have a team around you . . . So it takes a support team and as the Ministry one of our goals is to try and create better partnerships with the private sector in order to help us help you attain your goals.
“That’s something that will be a very big focus for the Sports Commission. It will be a big focus for the Ministry leading into this next year, into 2019 and beyond. And I think with all of your performances that you all achieved in Botswana, I believe that it set us up very nicely for the future in order to show the corporates exactly what our young athletes are doing,” Coventry said.
Zimbabwe sent a contingent of 86 with 62 athletes who competed in athletics, athletics for the visually-impaired, football (girls), netball, swimming and tennis.
South Africa underlined their status as the powerhouse in the region when they retained their title after amassing 70 gold medals, 61 silver and 14 bronze to finish with a total of 145 medals.
On second position was Angola followed by Botswana and Zambia were fourth. Mozambique and Lesotho were sixth and seventh respectively. Namibia were eighth and Malawi ninth while Eswatini anchored the medals table.
Coventry urged the young athletes to take advantage of the experience they got in Botswana as they go forward. “These Games are a great first step and as athletes I know that you all have big goals and you want to try and achieve those goals whether it’s the Africa Games next year or the Olympic Games the following year.
“I know that we have an extreme amount of talent sitting with us here today and now you have gained this experience in Botswana, it’s now time to start using that experience for your future endeavours,” Coventry said.
Some of the athletes that were outstanding at the Games in Botswana are vice-captain Norman Mukwada, who scooped two gold medals in 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles. He also got two bronze medals in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.
“I want to thank the whole team, we did well as well as coaches and the Government they supported us. I am grateful for my performance. I got gold medals in the 400m hurdles and 110 hurdles. “I am now preparing for 2020 Olympic Games, it’s my dream to be there. So I need to work extra hard. The competition was so tough but I managed to get two gold medals and we need to prepare a lot for 2020 since the competition will be so tough,” said Mukwada.
Moment Bhebhe also got gold medals in 800m and 1 500m and a bronze in 400m while Mehluli Sibanda grabbed another gold for Zimbabwe in tennis.
Dorothy Kavhumbura added another gold in triple jump event.
Libetra Shoko also picked a gold medal in 100m for the visually impaired and two silver medals in the 200m and 400m events.
“I am so proud to be part of Team Zimbabwe and in-fact I was expecting to get three gold medals but unfortunately I got one and two silver. I had prepared enough (for the Games) and my coaches had trained me. I was fit, everything was in condition so I was expecting to get better than what I got — 100m gold, silver in 200m and 400m,” said Shoko.