Paralympics team trip hangs in balance

Ellina Mhlanga Harare Bureau
AN eight-member Zimbabwe Paralympics team vying for qualification for this year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September, trooped into camp on Monday in preparation for the Tunis International Meeting – the IPC Athletics Grand Prix.

The trip, though. hangs in the balance.

The competition is scheduled for March 24 to 27 in Tunisia and six of the athletes are seeking qualification while the other two are going for classification.

But the team is yet to secure funding.

Team manager, Reward Zvinavashe, said if they fail to compete in the upcoming qualifiers, where they are also seeking classification, Shepherd Gumede (400m T13) and Laina Sithole (100m and 200m T13), who attained qualification standards, will not be eligible to compete in the Rio Games.

Classification determines who is eligible to compete in a Paralympic sport and it groups the eligible athletes in sport classes according to their activity limitation in a certain sport.

“We’re trying to make sure our athletes are prepared for the qualifier competitions and we have two that have qualified but have to go for classification process as per the International Paralympic Committee requirements.

“If they don’t participate in the classification programmes that are being held they won’t be eligible for the Games. So this is our effort to make sure they are classified.

“We’ve Shepherd Gumede with an A standard and Laina Sithole also qualified with an A standard. We’ve others in camp whom we think, if given the opportunity, can qualify.

“We’re working on endurance and speed workouts,” said Zvinavashe.

However, Zvinavashe said they are not certain if they will be able to take part in the Tunis meet since they are yet to get funds for the trip.

ZNPC secretary-general, Lewis Garaba, said they are still running around to raise the needed money.

“Athletes are ready but we’re looking for funds. We’ve approached the government, they’ve been supporting us throughout for the Paralympics even for the African Games last year it was the government that funded us.

“Tomorrow (today) we should get the response.

“We’re looking at $36,000 and at the moment we don’t have any money. We’re only able to support the team in camp,” said Garaba.

Garaba said in the event that they miss out on the Tunis event they will have to look for other events but he noted that money will always be a challenge.

“If we don’t get the money we’ll keep on training because we’re looking for support from other sources. There’s an event in Morocco —The First International Athletics Meeting qualifier. But we need money to go there,” said Garaba.

Team

Laina Sithole, Karen Kasvenhemare, Illucky Chitimbe, Fidelity Mhone, Shepherd Gumede, Kudakwashe Paradzai, Clement Nyoni, Last Chitanda (guide).

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