‘Corporate support key to sport’s success’

04 Jan, 2014 - 04:01 0 Views

The Chronicle

Ricky Zililo Sports Reporter
EVERY New Year marks the start of new things with people setting their resolutions which they manage to achieve or falter along the year.Even sports personalities set themselves new targets which they believe will develop their careers.

Former African top ranked wheelchair tennis ace Nyasha Mharakurwa had a forgetful 2013 and is hoping to make a comeback to the sport that saw him winning a number of accolades in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Mharakurwa, once ranked among the continent’s best has dropped to 13th in Africa and a low of 217 in the world rankings according to the International Tennis Federation December 16, 2013 rankings.

This is the lowest ranking for the Zimbabwean whose wheelchair tennis career has taken a downward turn in the last two years.  No doubt, lack of game time has affected the budding tennis star, who inspires a number of athletes with disabilities.

Mharakurwa has called on the corporate world to support athletes with disabilities as the nation stands to produce a number of Paralympic medalists.

Mharakurwa, the 2012 Annual National Sports Awards Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability winner said the country had a number of talented athletes with disabilities whose talents and dreams of competing at international level were going down the drain.

The Zimbabwean ace’s career highlight saw him compete at the August London 2012 Paralympic Games after getting a wild card entry to the Games.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) picked the Zimbabwean wheelchair tennis ace after he failed to take part in the required number of international matches due to lack of resources.

In the build-up to the London Paralympics, Mharakurwa, despite not having been involved in any international matches was ranked third in Africa behind South Africa’s duo of Sydwell Mathonsi and Desmond Mosimane.

“Like I said before, my subdued performance at the London 2012 Paralympics was because I had inadequate preparations and after that I did not manage to compete at internationally recognised competitions. Had I participated at international events, I would still be among the best players in Africa.

Everything needs money and that is why I am saying talent alone without funding, one cannot go anywhere in as far as winning international accolades is concerned.

“I have had a number of challenges in my playing career and I know that there are a number of people like me who are talented and are in dire need of corporate assistance.

“I therefore challenge sporting bodies and corporates to work together and support sport for people with disabilities. It is my hope that since government has introduced a separate ministry responsible for Sport, Arts and Culture, things will turn for the best,” Mharakurwa said.

The former University of Johannesburg student noted that most companies and individuals only want to come in and be visible during celebration times but they do not want to help in terms of preparing athletes for events.

A notable example of the corporate world shunning people with disabilities is that of Mharakurwa who failed to get funds to enable him to compete in overseas tournaments that were qualifiers for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

At one time he was Africa’s top ranked player but due to lack of participation at the ITF-recognised tournaments, he went down on the rankings.

Mharakurwa’s brilliance on the tennis court has seen him getting a scholarship at the University of Johannesburg and during his spare time he coaches upcoming wheelchair tennis players around Gauteng Province.

“We can copy a number of things from South Africa. The corporate world supports sport big time with banks, mobile networks and other institutions taking the lead.

“The future looks bright and the fact that we had the likes of budding Bulawayo’s wheelchair tennis player Sheppard Banda going for a tour in France where he competed at the Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters – Les Petits As 2012 is testimony to that. Such talent cannot be ignored and that is why there is a need to assist such players to enable them to participate at regional events as they prepare for the future,” Mharakurwa said.

The ITF invited Banda, the 16-year-old King George Memorial player after seeing him play at the 2011 World Team Championships in South Africa.

Mharakurwa is the country’s ambassador for the ITF wheelchair tennis. He said because of lack of funds, he had to resort to coaching in South Africa.

“I spent the better part of last year coaching in South Africa and it is my hope that this year I will play at least six or eight competitions in South Africa.

“I know that I can improve on my rankings and what I need is just to have funds to enable me to travel for competitions,” said Mharakurwa.

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