Zim brace for African Games

HIGH TABLE . . . Team Zimbabwe chef de mission Eltah Nengomasha (centre) outlines her team’s plans while the director Sport and Recreation in the Ministry of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Eugenia Chidhakwa (left) and deputy chef de mission (technical) Tendayi Tagara look on during yesterday’s media conference in Harare.

AFTER months of intense preparations behind the scenes, Team Zimbabwe chef de mission for the African Games Elta Nengomasha believes they have done all they can to come up with the best set of athletes to fly the country’s flag at the sporting showpiece.

The 13th edition of the quadrennial Games, African’s own version of the Olympics, is scheduled to run in Accra, Ghana from March 8-23.

Zimbabwe will participate in athletics, chess, cricket (men and women), cycling, judo, karate, rugby, tennis, triathlon and swimming. 

Nengomasha, who is also the Sports and Recreation Commission director-general, yesterday led Team Zimbabwe management, as they interfaced with the media to reaffirm the country’s participation and give an update on their state of preparedness.

She was flanked by the guest of honour – director of Sport and Recreation in the Ministry of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture Eugenia Chidhakwa – and her deputy Chef de Missions – Tendayi Tagara (Technical) and Ignatius Vambe (administration).  

She said they had held an extensive selection process to ensure they have the best athletes representing the country at the Games.

“We are confident as team management that the team complement, we are going with should be able to at least give us a podium performance in certain disciplines,” Nengomasha said.

In coming up with the line-up of athletes, the selectors also took into consideration sport codes seeking qualification for the Olympic Games, as the continental event will serve as a qualifier for some of the sport codes.

They also looked at performance and the developmental aspect for some of the sport codes. 

“What was our strategy in coming up with Team Zimbabwe? We were very deliberate.

“The African Games is hosting more than 20 or 30 sport codes. 

“We looked at team performance, remember SRC tracks performance for national associations either individual performance or team performance.

“And what we did for African Games, because they are the highest continental championships that are held, it is important that we put the best foot forward.

“So, our first primary focus was on the best performing sport codes, whether they are individual sports or a team sport.

“After that we looked at the teams that had been assigned as qualifiers for the Olympics and we were deliberately trying to go with as many sport codes that would maybe give Zimbabwe an Olympic qualification because you are aware the Paris (Games) 2024 is around the corner and the window for qualification or for qualifiers is still open.

“And the third thing was ranking. It’s also important that as Zimbabwe we give our athletes platforms so that they can improve their rankings. 

“And the final one was developmental. We looked at the teams that have potential to progress beyond the current performance,” said Nengomasha. 

Nengomasha added that after taking into consideration the various factors they picked some of the sport codes seeking qualification for the Games and some of the non-Olympic qualifiers. 

Athletics, cycling, swimming, tennis, triathlon and judo are some of the sport codes using the Games as a qualifier for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“This resulted in us going with athletics, we are going with cycling, we are going with swimming, tennis, triathlon and judo. 

“On the non-qualifiers we are going with the Lady Chevrons, not simply because they are the reigning champions in Africa, but also because we are very confident that there is a podium performance there.

“We are going with men’s cricket. We are going with rugby sevens they are currently ranked fourth in Africa and we hope and anticipate we could get a podium performance there. We are going with karate, and we are going with chess.”

At the previous Games held in Morocco, in 2019, Zimbabwe got only four medals – one silver and three bronze.

Triathlon got a silver and a bronze, while chess and swimming weighed in with a bronze each.

Based on statistics, Tagara is hopeful of podium performances. 

“Statistically for the first time we are sending a team that has quite a number of athletes and codes that are in the top five.

“When you have the top five in Africa, it means in terms of podium you are guaranteed because it’s anyone’s game to be in the finals. 

“Rugby is in top four in Africa, it can be in the final, our tennis Lock (Benjamin) is performing, we will have to get a gold medal in those events.

“If you look at the swimmers again, we are expecting gold medals and silver. I can assure you when we come back, we must have a gold medal,” said Tagara.

Herald

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