The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
Zimbabwe’s track and field trio of Shingirai Hlanguyo, Chengetayi Mapaya and Tino Matiyenga’s participation at the Tokyo Olympic Games hangs in the balance.
The United States-based athletes appear to be stranded at their bases as coronavirus cases in the US topped 8 million last week.
Rugby Cheetahs’ speedster and short-distance runner, Hlanguyo, looks to be the hardest hit, with the City of Los Angeles back in lockdown.
“Insofar as the Covid-19 situation is concerned, it is still pretty much the same, with business still pretty closed down here in Los Angeles.
“Only a few restaurants are opening, and mostly for outside dining, with people eating outside and still maintaining social distancing.
“There are still very strict in terms of regulations, guidelines and protocols, as every time they open up, cases spike,” said Hlanguyo, who is based at California State University.
The lockdown has naturally put a stop to most collegiate events, which has hampered his return to the track an injury lay-off.
“We are yet to resume training, as our school opts for a more cautious approach.
“Every time they have tried to reopen, someone ends up getting Covid-19 and the number of cases within the team itself spike.
“Some schools have put in place protocols, with athletes getting tested before resuming practice, which is then followed by a two-week quarantine.
“I remain hopeful that I will be able to qualify for the Olympics, but it is becoming more and more difficult.
“We have been told to practice individually, which has been worsened by the fact that all Fall (autumn) meets and championships have been cancelled, and we don’t know what is going to happen with the Spring events.
“I have been working out and training by myself, and feel confident about the work I have put in,” he said.
It is more of the same for the Texas Christian University (TCU) duo of triple jumper Mapaya and sprinter Matiyenga.
With only 14 cases recorded at TCU, the school authorities have allowed some sports to resume training, an experience Matiyenga has described as odd.
“All our classes are online now, and (we) have been banned from any gatherings.
“We have started training again, but the whole experience has been weird.
“Social distancing is a must even during warm-ups; we are forced to wear masks in the gym and there are sanitisers at every corner.
“There are field markings for social distancing all over and we get questionnaires every day to see if any of us have any Covid-19 symptoms.
“It has really put a damper on the team atmosphere and camaraderie that usually characterises our training regimes,” Matiyenga said.
He admitted that he is in the dark about his season’s prospects, with most schools hesitant to commit to hosting events.
Fortunately, that is not the story for his roommate, countryman and fellow TCU student — Mapaya.
The 21-year-old is looking at competing in January, despite the fact that his first meet will be in December.
“My first event should be around December, but I am unlikely to commit as slowly I am trying to work on getting fit again and improving my technique,” he said.
“I have a heavy schedule in January and would be competing in meets every two weeks right up to June.
“I started training, personally, sometime in June and then together with my teammates last month, and hope that I will be ready in January.
“Come January, it is on,” Mapaya said.