WHEN veteran sports administrator Paul Chingoka ascended to the helm of Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) an era dawned in the history of the sport.
l, Helvetica, sans-serif”>A fortnight ago, the man left the TZ post to concentrate on his new assignment at the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC), leaving behind an impressive record at the tennis association.
Chingoka said he was resigning to pave way for others and also to concentrate on his new post as president of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC).
Chingoka had been at the helm of TZ for 14 years and was being retained unopposed at elections. He is credited with turning tennis from an elitist to the popular sport that it has become, probably second after soccer.
“I am happy that in tennis we never experienced boardroom problems like what is happening in other sports,” he told IndependentSport.
While other associations like soccer were gripped with boardroom administration squabbles, tennis was growing in leaps and bounds.
To date there are over 60 junior players based in the United States on full tennis scholarship and more than 16 full-time coaches nationwide.
Tennis courts have been constructed in Masvingo and Chitungwiza.
“The Masvingo City Council became involved while the Chitungwiza Municipality is failing to fulfill some of its promises,” he said.
Under Chingoka’s leadership, the Zimbabwean team dominated tennis in Africa for the last 10 years and the Davis Cup team moved from Euro Africa Zone Group, the Group One, the World Group and back to Group One.
Chingoka said Zimbabwe’s victory at the Mildura lawn courts in Australia will forever be ingrained on his memory.
“I remember it was two-all and there was one final match to play. Byron Black’s feet were swollen but with dedication and pride for his country he won the match and Zimbabwe defeated Australia in her backyard,” he said.
Then there was a pulsating match against the US in 2000. Although Zimbabwe lost that tie 2-3 the doubles team of Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett floored Rick Leach and Alex O’Brien 7-6, 5-7, 0-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the World Group first round.
The crème de la crème of world tennis graced Harare during Chingoka’s tenure in office.
Names that come to mind include Andre Agassi, Marcelo Rios, Pat Rafter and Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge better known as the “Woodies” in tennis.
By 1993, Chingoka was already occupying positions of responsibility in Africa. He was elected to sit on the Davis Cup Committee for Africa.
Chingoka was chef de mission of tennis at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and was chef de mission of the ZOC in Sydney in 2000.
In 1998 the ITF awarded the administrator with the highest honour in tennis for development and improvement of the sport.
The year 1999 saw Chingoka being elected chairman for development in the Confederation of African Tennis (Cat).
In 2001 Chingoka was elected one of the 12 directors on the ITF.
Chingoka chairs the Worldwide Coaching Commission and sits on the board of directors of the Tennis Hall of Fame based in the US. He is developmental advisor to Africa in ITF.
He is the reigning president of Cat and was elected by 50 African countries last year. His term of office runs until 2007.
Chingoka however leaves the sport a bitter man over government’s failure to provide adequate sponsorship to tennis during his reign – and he has no kind words for the Harare City Council either over what he called its “insensivity” towards the development of tennis.
“We spent about $20 million to develop the courts before the crucial ties but these efforts were not complemented by council,” he said.
Now at the helm of ZOC, Chingoka says he is determined to take the organisation to dizzy heights.
“I will abide by the Olympic charter and the ZOC constitution,” said Chingoka.
He is no stranger to Olympic and the sky seems to be the limited for this gifted sport administrator.