Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
FOLLOWING Zimbabwe’s relay team failure to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games at the World Relays in Chorzow, Poland, on Saturday, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (Naaz) has encouraged overseas-based athletes to target individual qualification.
The top eight teams at the Poland meet qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Zimbabwe came last out of six teams in Heat 2 of three heats in a time of 40.54 seconds.
Dickson Kamungeremu, Makanaka Charamba, Rodwell Ndlovu and Ngoni Makusha made up the team that competed for Zimbabwe at the meet.
Naaz president Tendai Tagara said the relay team’s final hopes for the Olympics are the Senior African Championships set for June 1-5 in Algeria. He said the absence of overseas-based athletes, who include the United States of America (USA) based pair of Tinotenda Matiyenga and Kundai Maguranyanga, as well as Tatenda Tsumba, who is in the United Kingdom, affected Zimbabwe’s qualification.
Brazil won the heat in 38.45 seconds, followed by Germany in 38.70 seconds.
The same heat produced the next two fastest times, with Japan, who came third, qualifying in a time of 38.98 seconds and Denmark coming fourth in 39.06 seconds to also make the final. Zimbabwe were participating in the World Relays for the second time and had hoped for a better outcome after a disappointing first appearance in 2019 in Botswana when they qualified in a time of 38.95 seconds.
With less competition last year, the same team that earned them a place in the 2019 edition held in Japan saw them returning to the world stage again this year. Zimbabwe were missing one of the team’s key members, UK-based Tsumba, who was part of the team that qualified and competed in Japan.
“Travel restrictions and collegiate games in the USA denied us an opportunity to send a strong team for the World Relays. We can’t blame the USA-based players’ unavailability because they first have to give preference to the universities that pay their scholarships.
“The team still has a chance to go for it at the Africa Senior Championships in Algeria. What we are also encouraging Zimbabwean athletes overseas is that they should try and go for individual qualifying races that side,” said Tagara.
Meanwhile, Naaz will send eight long distance runners for a qualifying marathon in Cape Town, South Africa, on May 30. Munyaradzi Jari, Isaac Mpofu, Ngonidzashe Ncube, Jonathan Chinyoka, Winfred Mutiro, Fortunate Chidzivo, Ethel Sibanda and Tryfina Picardo will be hoping to qualify for the Olympics. — @ZililoR