Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
WITH this year’s edition of the Old Mutual Westgate half-marathon attracting foreign athletes, hosts Harare Athletics Board say it’s a testimony of the growth of the tourney.
The race, held on Sunday, was graced by athletes from Kenya -Linus Kipwambok Chumba, Dorcus Chesang and Purity Jerop Biwott. HAB chairman, Sebastian Garikai, said the race, which started off as a 16km Fun Run, has over the years continued to grow and the presence of foreign athletes is a positive development.
“The presence of the foreigners coming here means a lot. This is the second event (after the JM Busha 54 races marathon in May) that we have hosted in Harare where we have had foreigners coming in from Kenya. They are powerhouses in middle and long-distance races and when they come here it means we are getting competitive as Zimbabweans as none of them managed to take the podium place.
‘‘But it’s good for the sport, it shows us where we are in terms of development, in terms performance and as such we hope next year we will have more countries coming to participate at these events,” said Garikai.
The Westgate half-marathon is one of the key events on the local athletics calendar with most of the country’s top athletes participating every year.
On Sunday, Canisious Nyamutsita defended his title in the men’s Open category while Rutendo Nyahora was crowned champion in the women’s section.
Elford Moyo and Thandiwe Ndlovu emerged winners in wheelchair racing.
Apart from the main event, there was also a 10km race and 5km Fun Run on offer. Garikai attributed the success of the event to their sponsors – Old Mutual – and said they have been key to the promotion of athletics in the country.
“The partnership has grown over the years. We started with this event as the inception event. And then we have developed, now they have six other events that they run, they don’t just support and partner us in running events, here in Harare.
“They now have got races in Bulawayo, races in Mutare and I am sure it will expand even further in such a way that all the 10 provinces will end up having to enjoy the partnership that Old Mutual bring on the table,” Garikai.
Kenya’s Chumba, who was running in Zimbabwe for the first time and finished in 10th place in the half-marathon, said it was a good experience.
Some of the events supported by Old Mutual include the Vumba half-marathon and Dangamvura 10km Fun Run.