ZOC bails out tennis players Marlene Gadzirayi

Nkosilathi Sibanda, [email protected]

THE Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) has given Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) a timely shot in the arm by announcing they will pay airfares for the six-member team to represent the country at the Africa Junior Championships set for February 27 to March 10 in Lome, Togo.

The players, who will take part in the 14 and Under category are Africa’s number one ranked player on the Confederation of African Tennis circuit Kuzivaishe Chapepa, Akeelah Khanye who is at position 10, Rufaro Ruwanza (36) and Rutendo Tomu (42).

In the boys’ team there is Noah Samushonga (20) and Muchengeti Manzungu (23).

The teams are scheduled to leave for Togo on February 24.

The players were announced on Tuesday by TZ general manager Kupakwashe Mukurumbira, on behalf of the selectors’ representative Miracle Matanga.

TZ president Walter Jera, yesterday revealed that ZOC will pay for the players’ airfares.

“Our drive to identify, nurture and develop tennis talent has seen Tennis Zimbabwe partnering the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) who have come in with a milestone sponsorship by providing airfares for the team. ZOC, we thank you for believing in the future we are creating,” said Jera.

He said the Africa Junior Championships were key in the development of the game.

“The Africa Junior Championship is the pinnacle of Under-14 junior tennis in the continent and provides an important platform for our players to test themselves against the best in the continent. This competition is an important part of the development pathway for the junior tennis players with potential to become the next generation of tennis professionals for our country,” said Jera.

He said TZ believes that by investing in junior tennis, they are building a solid foundation for future success and praised parents for their continued support.

“I wish to extend my gratitude to the parents and coaches of the players who have invested so much in the players. I invite the entire nation to rally behind our junior team.”

ZOC chief executive officer Marlene Gadzirayi, in a speech at the team unveiling event yesterday, said they were committed to supporting young athletes and help them shape a future in sport.

“Together, let us rally behind our young athletes, encourage their growth, and support their journey towards achieving their dreams. The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee stands firm in its commitment to empowering our youth and shaping them into formidable representatives of our nation on the global sporting stage.

“Youth sports development is at the core of our mission at the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, as we believe in nurturing and empowering young talents to represent our country on the global stage. Our goal is to pave the way for these talented individuals to showcase their skills and bring pride to Zimbabwe,” she said.

Gadzirayi outlined the importance of having players at the junior championships, saying this was good preparation for the 2026 Youth Olympics.

“As we look ahead to the Youth Olympics in 2026 in Dakar, we are dedicated to preparing our young talents for success and excellence. By investing in their training, development, and participation in international competitions like the Africa Junior Championship, we are laying the foundation for a bright future for Zimbabwean sports,” she said.

Team Zimbabwe coach, Terrence Mazungaire said he was excited for being chosen to guide the young players.

“I am thrilled about this assignment because we are sending the next generation of tennis stars who will in the next few years represent Zimbabwe in major tennis tournaments. I was fortunate to have travelled with the same team during the Southern Africa Zonals Competition hosted in Namibia early this year, so this is a continuation of a journey we started this year,” he said.

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