By Enock Muchinjo
FOR the first time since Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe will not be represented in diving at next month’s Olympic Games, bringing a sad end to the country’s long and proud history in aquati
With national diving structures in shreds, sending a team to the Olympics, in Greece, would be unthinkable.
Zimbabwe, until two years ago highly regarded among the top diving nations in the world, had also previously sent divers to the Olympics since 1960 despite the tough qualifying competitions. The only years the country missed out was during political isolation in 1968,1972 and 1976.
Diving has been hard hit by emmigration and retirements while the Zimbabwe Diving Board has ceased to function due to lack of funding.
Ironically, the last chair-person of the association was Anthea Stewart, whose son Evan Stewart was the last diver to represent the country at the Olympics or at any international event. Anthea was the captain of the Zimbabwe women’s hockey team that sensationally scooped gold at the 1980 Games in Moscow while Evan is a former Commonwealth and World Championships gold medallist.
There have not been any provincial and national events in the country in four years. Top female diver Shaye Boddington left the country for New Zealand where she initially did well and participated in events in Australia before giving up the sport.
Jodi McGroaty, the youngest and most promising diver, is now part of the England junior team.
Diving administrator Vernon Bootha, whose daugther Tara also quit diving, told IndependentSport that although some schools are making efforts to revive the sport, lack of top coaches is the major problem.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is expected to announce its final Olympics squad at a function in the capital Harare on July 15.
The country has endured a medal drought since 1980 when the “Golden Girls” of hockey brought home the gold.
Robert Mutsauki, the chef de mission of Zimbabwe’s Athens delegation, said the team to be announced would have medal prospects. “We don’t want to say we’ll bring medals but clearly we’ve medal prospects,” Mutsauki said.
The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee also announced at the midweek briefing that the qualification deadline for Zimbabwean athletes making it to Greece next month is July 21.