JUST IN: Teenage blade runner makes history as youngest athlete at World Para Games in Dubai
Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
ZIMBABWE’S teenage blade runner, 16-year-old Pride Mafira, was the youngest athlete at the World Para Athletes Grand Prix recently held in Dubai.
Although he did not qualify for the 100m final after running the heat in 17.66 seconds, the Victoria Falls-based amputee set a personal best jump record of 3.01m in the long jump.
He was the youngest in the 100m dash, which had participants over 30 years old.
Born with a deformed right leg, which had one supporting bone missing, his family may have thought Pride was wheelchair bound when the leg was amputated, but he has defied odds to become a T44/F64 para athlete and scooping a series of gold medals in South Africa where he has competed in various events ranging from 100m, long jump and shot put.
He joined the country’s Paralympics team last year and was drafted into the team that went to Dubai in preparation for the Tokyo games later this year.
The trip to Dubai coincided with his 16th birthday on February 6.
The former Chinotimba Primary schoolboy said he is happy to have competed at the top despite not qualifying for the final.
“Being my first real international event and the youngest, I think I tried my best, although I didn’t qualify. It was an honour to have such an opportunity to showcase my talent as I look forward to more competitions,” said Mafira, who is a Form 4 learner at Prince Edward High School in Harare.
His father and coach Fredrick Mafira said he set six months for the boy to work on improving his sprint time.
“The preparations were good as we also used some virtual marathons locally to prepare. He also got a new prosthetic leg in time to train with it for a week, so now we need to work on his time. To qualify he needed to make it in 13 seconds, but he only finished in 17.66 seconds. He was taken into the team for development for the future,” said Mafira.
Deputy sports director in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Ignatius Vambe, who is also chef de mission for the Tokyo Olympics games, said the Dubai grand prix was a preparatory stage for Team Zimbabwe.
“For us this was very important because we wouldn’t have participated at the Tokyo Games. It was an opportunity for our athletes to qualify and one of them broke an African record. It is the first time we are going to the Paralympics by qualification, which is a massive achievement. For Pride, this is a sign of a bright future ahead of him because he was the youngest athlete and held his own,” Vambe said. – @ncubeleon