BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Top junior athletes are set to miss this year’s rescheduled edition of the Bonaqua Africa Triathlon Cup Troutbeck set for Nyanga next weekend.
At least 31 elite and junior athletes from nine countries, eight of them from Africa, have registered to take part in the 14th edition of the international competition.
The event is normally held in February but had to be moved due to the Covid-19 outbreak at the beginning of the year, making it difficult for the juniors who did well last year to participate.
Matt Deslow, Mikayla Colegrove and Andy Kuipers were impressive at the annual international event for Triathlon Zimbabwe but have university commitments this time around.
Kuipers left the country on a scholarship to join the first triathlon team at Lenoir-Rhyne University in South Carolina in the US and is targeting qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
However, Triathlon Zimbabwe is hoping that a new crop of junior athletes will rise to the occasion at the event.
“Unfortunately Mikayla (Colegrove), Andy (Kuipers) and Matt (Denslow), our top juniors, have all gone to university, that is another reason why staging this event in September is not ideal,” event director Rick Fulton said.
“Andy is pursuing a good career at university because they have a very good triathlon programme there and she is definitely targeting the Paris 24 Olympic Games.
“Makayla and Matt are just trying to progress their triathlon careers and also combine with their studies. We now have a new crop of juniors who are coming through and we hope they are going to have good races. It would be a good experience taking them forward,” he said.
Denslow, who made a step up from the juniors to the men’s elite race at the age of 18 last year, finished a commendable eighth in the 10-men field.
Kuipers finished fourth in the female junior race while Colegrave settled for fifth position and Luke Heathcote-Hacker was the highest placed Zimbabwean in the junior men race after fourth overall
Laurelle Brown settled for second position in the women’s elite competition.
Triathlon Zimbabwe will be looking to stage the Africa Cup in February which Fulton said is a good time as it helps athletes accumulate international points which they can use to enter other events during the course of the year.
Athletes can use points accumulated in the events during the course of the year.
The organisation is hopeful that some of their athletes will be able qualify for the Olympics.
“It’s only a few that can get to that level and it takes a very special athlete to be able to qualify and get to the Olympics. It takes a lot of time and dedication and investment and those are processes which are not easy to manage in our current situation.
“Zimbabwe struggles to manage athlete development programmes to that high level to compete on the global stage against super powers in the sporting arena because we do not have those resources.
“But it doesn’t distract the mind-set and the passion of our athletes wanting to succeed and people like Andy have got that passion and drive and are extremely determined. And now it’s a question of trying to support them in the best possible way we can to make the pathway as smooth and give them opportunities to try and qualify,” Fulton said.
Fulton was pleased that the event managed to maintain corporate partners while Toyota Zimbabwe will be involved for the first time.
“We work very hard and we have a good working relationship. For the last six months, since we postponed the event we have had monthly sponsor group calls on Zoom with all of the sponsors’ representatives.
“They are completely involved in the planning process and we are happy to have them. Triathlon Zimbabwe has been blessed with stringent and strict governance controls with regard to accounting.We are fully audited so the sponsors know that the money is in the right place and is going to be spent in the right places,” he said.
Key sponsors include Coca Cola, Toyota Zimbabwe, Bon Marche’, African Sun and Cimas.