Athletics on recovery track after feuding

Enock Muchinjo

NATIONAL Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) chairman Joseph Mungwari says the sport is recovering from the in-house skirmishing that threatened Zimbabwe’s international participation in the last two yea

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Athletics administration was brought to a near halt after a sour power struggle in NAAZ forced the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) to suspend the association’s national executive led by Mungwari. However, NAAZ was reinstated after the intervention of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), which gave an ultimatum to the SRC and the warring sides to resolve their dispute.

“We are doing very well with the little resources we have,” said Mungwari. “The problems we are having are normal problems. Financial constrains are our major problem since we lost most of our sponsors when we were having our administration wars.

“Right now I can safely say that NAAZ is one of the best performing association in the country. One of the best ways to measure success is by noting improvements in grassroots performance, and ours is probably the best.

“At the moment, Zimbabwe is rated second after Kenya in marathon races in the world, and sixth in cross-country competitions. Also this year a record 16 athletes have qualified for the World Junior Championships, a major development from the previous years when we were sending two or three athletes to the championships.”

Zimbabwe is using the Southern Region Track and Field championships on this weekend at the National Sports Stadium to prepare for the World Senior Championship and the World Junior Championship to be held in Helsinki, Finland, and Morocco, next month.

Most countries in the southern African region are expected to take part in the weekend event.

It has emerged that the Millennium Athletics Academy, the country’s leading training centre that is tipped to provide top athletes for the World Championships, has not yet received its annual sponsorship installment from sponsor Delta.

Thabani Gonye, the United States trained coach of the country’s top athletics club, All Stars, gave a different standpoint of the state of the game in the country, saying the administration lacked innovation.

“There is still a lot to be done in terms of progression to professionalism administration- wise. In my benchmark, our administrators fall short in terms of capacity and resourcefulness. We need individuals who are able to execute development plans and run the sport as a business entity”, Gonye said.

All Stars has honed the skills of some of the country’s top sprinters before awarding them scholarships to the United States. The club has groomed US-based national record holding sprinter Brian Dzingai and Lloyd Zvasiya, who is currently on a training stint in the United Kingdom.

However, the country’s biggest provincial association, the Harare Athletics Board, said it has avoided clashes with the national body for the sake of progress.

“We want to develop athletics and we put the athlete in front. Therefore we ignore the negatives on the national association’s side and on our side as well. In any association, if you want to avoid confrontation, you have to study each other’s weaknesses,” said HAB secretary-general Elijah Tapatapa.

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