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Athletes hit by timing setback

Enock Muchinjo

ZIMBABWEAN athletes still have to go through foreign countries in order to qualify for international competitions until a portable electronic timer is brought into the country.

For the six years that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) barred the use of hand timers to measure international running speeds, Zimbabwean athletes who aim to participate in IAAF-sanctioned events have to run in tournaments in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, with United States-based athletes qualifying from there. The only electronic timer available in the country is fixed at the National Sports Stadium, where soccer matches take precedence over athletics events. Most athletics galas are held at the University of Zimbabwe track.

David Leboho, the first vice-president of the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ), said the country needed at least one electronic timer in every province. Leboho said the grant that the local association receives from IAAF was insufficient to import the timers.

“It has become like a culture in Zimbabwe that we don’t have standard gadgets,” he said. “We always had no timers. The gadgets are getting expensive every time and we have no money to purchase them. At least, the electronic timers are only needed for sprint and other shorter events, otherwise for the road races, our athletes can qualify from here using the hand timers.”

Differences in athletics seasons in the southern Africa region, and financial constraints, have in the past thwarted the participation of some local athletes at major international events like the World Championships after few athletes managed to travel for the qualifying tournaments.

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