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Ellina Mhlanga in LAGOS, Nigeria
ALTHOUGH Zimbabwe could not pick a medal at the just-ended 2018 African Senior Athletics Championships, the country made a huge impression at the meet in Asaba. Zimbabwe fielded nine athletes at the continental championships with the 4x100m relay team coming fourth in the final.
Sprinter Tatenda Tsumba also reached the final in the 200m while Harare-based Ngoni Makusha was sixth in the 100m event in 10.45 seconds.
Tsumba came fourth in 20.70 seconds behind South Africa’s Ncincilili Titi, who was the first to cross the finish line in 20.46seconds.
Oduduru Ejowvokoghene of Nigeria was second in 20.60seconds, followed by another South African Luxolo Adams in 20.60seconds on third place.
Lisimati Phakamile, who was leading the team, said it was encouraging that they met some of the targets they set going into this competition.
“I think Team Zimbabwe performed exceptionally well, according to my standards and expectations.
‘’Remember I had targeted that I wanted personal best times from the athletes and also attempted finals or semi-finals before we started these games.
“I am actually impressed by the number of athletes that got to the finals and the number of the athletes that got to the semi-finals considering that among the athletes that got to these levels we had juniors as well competing with the seniors and getting to the semi-finals of their competitions.
“It is up to us now as an association, as a coaching department that we continue with the investment, we continue with the development that we are doing with these top athletes, excelling athletes such as Ngoni, Leon Tafirenyika, Dickson Kapandura and Tatenda.
“It’s up to us now to continue working with them so that we have a strong team. We have local talent qualifying for the African Games and also the World Championships that are coming on next year,” said Phakamile.
Kapandura and Rodwell Ndlovu pulled through to the semi-finals in the 200m and 400m events and formed part of the relay team as well.
With the relay team, Tsumba in 200m and Makusha in 100m, getting close to a possible medal position, Phakamile said it was just not their day.
He said their efforts are a good indicator as they build-up to next year’s World Championships and 2020 Olympics.
“In those three events we could have, at least, got two and missed one but unfortunately it wasn’t our day and it wasn’t our time.
‘’I am sure in the next competition with the next challenge we will be able to competently pick one or two medals in these events,” said Phakamile.
This year’s edition of the African meet was marred with chaos and disorganisation with the hosts failing to provide transport for teams to connect from Lagos to Asaba.
There were also challenges with the technical information centre on updates and release of information related to the events such as the start lists and the results themselves.
Phakamile saluted his team for showing character amid the chaos.
‘‘First of all I want to commend my team . . .the athletes themselves did display a very strong character.
“The disorganisation at the games on their own, the technical information centre was in disarray but our athletes did stand their ground.
‘‘They didn’t show any signs of discouragement.
“I should say we don’t want to experience such problems again in athletics wherever we go. They were actually a big let down,” said Phakamile.
Tsumba said reaching reach the finals at this level was important and they need to take it to the next level.
He was part of the relay team and also made the semi-finals in the in the 100m event.
“These are world-class athletes that are taking part here so for us to rub shoulders with them and to actually compete against them and to show that we have the talent shows we are on the right path.
‘‘I feel like getting to the finals at the World Championships is a reasonable target for us to aim for and something we can achieve next year,” said Tsumba.
The national association, however, still have some work to do to try and increase the numbers of the female athletes competing at this level.
Zimbabwe only had Faith Dube in 200m and 400m and Maryjoy Mudyiravanji competing in 800m.