Sports

It’s back to square one for sports activities

ON TOP OF THE TREE. . . Kirsty Coventry is our Athlete of the Decade for her victories at the African Games and around the world, though she didn’t pick another Olympic medal

Ellina Mhlanga

Sports Reporter

AS the country moved back into a strict lockdown on Saturday following the continued surging of Covid-19 cases, the Sports Commission, in consultation with Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry, also suspended all sporting activity in this country subject to review on January 31.

In a statement released late on Saturday by the Sports Commission, the suspension comes after the additional lockdown measures announced on the same day by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care.

“In light of the additional lockdown measures announced this 2nd January 2021 by the Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe — Hon (Rtd) General Dr C. G. D. N. Chiwenga, who is also responsible for the Ministry of Health & Child Care, the Sports and Recreation Commission, in consultation with the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts & Recreation, Hon. Dr K. L. Coventry, has with immediate effect suspended all sporting activity in Zimbabwe, subject to review on the 31st of January, 2021.

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“Any exceptions will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis subject to the receipt of a new application from the sports discipline concerned.

“Violations of this directive will be prosecuted,” reads the statement.

A number of national associations had been approved to resume their activities with some such as Zimbabwe Aquatic Union half-way into their swimming season.

Triathlon were also set to kick-start their second half of the season on January 10.

Zimbabwe Aquatic Union president, Mary Kloppers, said as sad as it may be for athletes, protecting human life should remain the priority. “First of all I believe we have a huge crisis in Zimbabwe as does the rest of the world.

Protection of human life must be at the forefront of all decisions. And as devastatingly sad it is for our athletes who basically have to stop training mid-season, it is hopefully a temporary measure that will restore us back to normal ASAP.

“Discussions still need to take place at swimming board level but I believe we may need to postpone the National Championships that were due to take place mid-February to possibly April. But time will tell if even that will be possible.

“My heart goes out to all athletes and coaches from all sports codes. However, I think we have all now realised how important sport in general is to everyone.

“Our Olympic hopefuls both locally and internationally-based will be affected as the whole world puts in tighter restrictions.”

Top female boxer and Women International Boxing Association Intercontinental light-welterweight champion, Monalisa Sibanda, who is hoping to defend her title early in the year, said she will continue preparing at home.

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“I don’t think there will be much effect for me. I will keep training at home. Remember Covid-19 and lockdown is not just about Zimbabwe but it’s all over the world. So what I will do is to keep training and praying to God that this pandemic comes to an end.

“We have come a long way and I can’t give up now. I keep believing in God this will come to an end . . . It is no longer something new, we have been able to live with this pandemic for some time now.

“So I will continue working, doing morning runs, which is a special workout for a boxer. This time I won’t relax because I had gained weight and I am getting there in terms of shedding the wait, so I am not relaxing. I will be working at home,” said Sibanda.

Triathlon Zimbabwe national coach, Pamela Fulton, expressed her disappointment but noted the importance of safety of everyone.

“I am devastated by the suspension of sporting events for the next 30 days as it affects both the development of triathlon and the preparation of our selection athletes for our National Championships to be held in Troutbeck in February.

“Troutbeck is a big event based on its regional, international and local athlete representation. We had three events scheduled for January with two of them aimed at developing triathlon by attracting newcomers and one selection event.

“These events would have not only helped prepare our juniors but would have enabled our corporate sector, which we have been trying to grow, to gain confidence as they also prepared to compete at Troutbeck.

“In the end all of our safety is key,” said Fulton.

Zimbabwe Handball Federation were excited about resuming their activities after they were approved late last year.

But now they have to wait a bit longer and ZHF secretary-general, Edson Chirowodza, said they will probably revert to online programmes until things get better.

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“First of all I am sure we are very much affected due to this Covid-19 pandemic as a sports industry at large because in general we are losing out on talent. Most of those youngsters who were supposed to be active in terms of competition and exposure they have been affected the most.

“We were anticipating that 2021 was going to be a better year, now we are starting with another lockdown. It’s quite disheartening but there is nothing we can do.

“We still need to meet and see how we can adjust our plans. But we are thinking along continuing with our programmes virtually. We continue to engage as we were doing through online platforms,” said Chirowodza.

The national federation had set January 23 as the date for their elective annual general meeting in Harare. Chirowodza said they will liaise with the Sports Commission on the way forward.

Long-distance runner Isaac Mpofu, who has just been intensifying his preparations for the Olympics qualifying races alongside other top athletes in the country, said they will find a way to cope until the restrictions are relaxed again.

“It has a big impact, negatively.  But as an athlete there are many things I can do to maintain my fitness. With the help of our coach (Cephas) Pasipamire, I think we will surely cope well until the restrictions are uplifted,” said Mpofu.

National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe vice-president, Titus Madzingo, said the suspension comes at a time when they were scheduled to get the season underway but safety of athletes and everyone else comes first.

Among sport codes that were yet to be approved include karate and Zimbabwe National Karate Federation president, Joe Rugwete, said it’s a blessing in disguise as they get more time to regularise their organisation.

The new karate body was formed last year.

“For the Zimbabwe National Karate Federation this new development, it doesn’t affect us because already we were not training and had adapted to virtual interaction with our members.

“We had taken it as an opportunity because we are a new organisation, so to us it is the time to regularise our membership with regional, continental and international bodies. Also getting our structures in place pending a better day where we shall be permitted to train.

“We continue to encourage our members to observe these regulations,” said Rugwete.

Just like everyone else, sportspersons will be hoping the situation gets better and resume their programmes for the year.

HERALD