ATHLETICS remains one of the sporting disciplines that is expected to produce a number of athletes for Team Zimbabwe to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to take place from July 23 to August 8.
Team Zimbabwe chef de mission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Thabani Gonye, reiterated they are considering athletics to be the major avenue for athletes to represent the country at the global show-piece.
But as athletes continue with their training under difficult circumstances due to the Covid-19 scourge, National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president, Tendai Tagara, says the ongoing situation is not helping their cause.
A number of competitions had been lined-up for this month to help athletes get into competition mode before they could go for the qualifiers. However, with Covid-19 cases on the rise in different countries, competitions are becoming fewer.
Locally, sport has been suspended and all athletics competitions that had been lined-up for this month have been cancelled.
“We had our plan in place but that plan is now under the bus. First we were looking at having four major competitions where we were aiming to lay strong foundations at provincial level. January was critical for that foundation. We were putting plans in place for regional tours in Botswana, Zambia and South Africa.
“We can’t even put Plan B in place, we only have Plan D for athletes to just exercise in their yards. The blanket ban means we can’t do anything.
“It’s very challenging but we just have to have hope, train in any little space they get. But I am happy with the Government decision because first thing is to save life,” Tagara said.
NAAZ was targeting for their long-distance runners to go for early races to qualify early, also giving them room for a second chance if they fail in their first attempt.
But with limited races now, Tagara said they have to go for the ultimate goal once they get the opportunity since it’s not certain they will get more races.
“Marathons are either being cancelled globally or the host countries are closing their borders. We had planned elite competitions, regional competitions, early qualifying for marathon runners.
“So there is a lot of pressure and confusion because you can’t plan under Covid-19. But we are still hopeful if we get a marathon we want to send five athletes at once and they have to go for time once and for all.
“Sprinters overseas if two or three can also get that opportunity, it means we can get more athletes. I am still hoping Ngoni (Makusha), who has moved to South Africa, can make it with a new High Performance team around him.
“We are now relying on those outside the country who are able to train but still under difficult conditions,” Tagara said.
Makusha is currently in South Africa at the High Performance Centre, while long-distance runner Munyaradzi Jari has been in Kenya for more than two months now, training with some of the top athletes there.
The other option is regional events and the NAAZ president has proposed for the region to come together and host a couple of track competitions to assist athletes get competition closer home to navigate some of the challenges such as travelling restrictions.
“We have limited competitions, that’s why I have proposed to the region to organise our own two major tracks specifically for qualifying. Marathons are a challenge because of weather conditions and limited fast courses in Africa,” added Tagara. Besides the Olympics the World Under-20 Championships are also scheduled for August 17 to 22 in Kenya.
They also have the Africa Senior Championships coming up in the year.
In the absence of National Association of Secondary School Heads competitions, it’s also another challenge to the selection of junior teams as they usually use the schools platform to identify some of the athletes.