The Sunday Mail
NGONI Makusha’s run at the Tokyo Olympics came to a screeching halt yesterday, but not before impressing in his debut race at the global sporting showcase earlier in the day.
At the start of the day, Makusha and golfer Scott Vincent were the only Zimbabweans left standing following the eliminations of rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin and swimmers Donata Katai and Peter Wetzlar.
To their credit, all three bowed out with their heads held high as Gilpin made it as far as the quarter-finals of the men’s singles’ sculls, while swimmers Katai and Wetzlar managed to post personal best times and a record for the latter.
The two swimmers got the opportunity to compete in Tokyo after Zimbabwe were awarded two slots to the Olympics by global swimming body FINA, as local swimmers struggled to reach the qualifying times.
Katai became the first black Zimbabwean swimmer to grace the Olympics, but to make it past the heat phase of the 100-metre backstroke on her way to a Personal Best time of 1 minute and 02:73 seconds, was in itself a fairy-tale.
It was the same story for fellow compatriot Wetzlar, who bowed out with a new local 100m freestyle record during his fifth-place finish during his heat.
Yesterday it was the turn of local sprint king, Makusha, whose races were closely followed by many in the country including President Mnangagwa.
During his maiden Olympics race, Makusha romped to victory in the preliminary round of the Men’s 100 metres in the early hours of the morning.
In that event Makusha clocked 10:32 seconds.
Sadly, he could not replicate that performance and was slow off the blocks to finish seventh in the heat phase, which decided who qualified for the semi-finals.
The 27-year-old clocked a time of 10:43 seconds to bow out of the competition and the Olympic Games, but he will have reason to hold his head high.
A gutted David Tinago, Makusha’s coach, refused to see his athlete’s first appearance at the Games as a failure but “rather a learning experience”.
“It was really a good race, and he did well.
“It’s such an experience that he made it this far and will take this as a learning experience.
“Hopefully he will be back again in the next Olympics and will fare better,” he said.
Tinago prefers to look at these Olympics as a learning curve, both for himself and his runner.
“We learnt a lot from this experience as I managed to attend the training sessions of some of the biggest runners (both male and female) in the world.
“It opened my eyes to a lot of things including the importance of sports science and managed to pick up a few tips and tricks along the way.
“The little I did pick up here I intend to share with others and use to better prepare Ngoni (Makusha) for future events and the next Olympics,” he said.
Age could, however, work against Makusha given the tough competition which characterises the sprint events especially at the Olympics where the search for the next Usain Bolt is still very much on.
With Makusha out, the onus is now on golfer Vincent who managed to shrug off a rocky start on Thursday and finished 5 under-par and joint 17th on the leader board yesterday. The United States-based golfer will have to play the game of his life if he if is to catch up with the leading pack and come close to a podium finish today.
But just like his colleagues in Team Zimbabwe, this is the fist time that Vincent is also featuring at the Games and he will no doubt have picked his own lessons too from the Tokyo experience.