The Sunday Mail
GOVERNMENT has pledged more support to ensure the team to the 2024 Paralympic Games in France will be competitive.
Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture Minister Kirsty Coventry told participants at the Danhiko Paralympic Games yesterday that they were working hand in glove with the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) to ensure the Paralympics team would be adequately prepared by the time they leave for Paris.
In a speech read on her behalf by SRC director-general Eltah Nengomasha, Minister Coventry revealed that a number of qualification events, such as the ongoing Danhiko Games, had been lined up to afford more athletes a chance to fight for a place at the Paralympics.
“Next year, there will be Paralympic Games in Paris. These Games are world-class Games for athletes with disabilities held after every four years.
“My ministry, on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe, is already working together with the Sports and Recreation Commission to make sure our country is represented at this prestigious event,” she said.
“Qualifying events have been lined up as participation at these Games depends on meeting qualifying standards.
“It is at these Games (Danhiko Games) that some of you will be selected to attend qualifying events dotted around the world.”
A new sport — football for amputees — was added to the Danhiko Games this year.
A local club, Ruwa George Al-Quds Amputee Football Club, held a scrimmage match during yesterday’s proceedings as a demonstration of the new sport.
The club is a collaborative effort between local businessmen and the Embassy of Palestine.
“We were approached by people who were interested in this sport and Games, and we decided to lend our support to the formation of this club here,” said Salim Siam, a counsellor at the Palestinian embassy.
“I understand that this is the first club to play amputee football in Zimbabwe. We contributed the little we could as a means to foster solidarity between these two countries.
“The goal is to build on this and eventually form a national team that will start participating in different competitions on the international stage.”
This came as a welcome development to Danhiko’s deputy director and president of the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee Witness Magulula.
There was a huge improvement in the numbers at this year’s edition.
“I am excited by the feedback, in terms of numbers, as this is only our second edition after the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Magulula.
“Last year, we had 25 participating teams and that number has risen to 44.
“In terms of actual athletes, we had 600 during last year’s Games, and that number has risen to just 900.
“The growth even extends to corporate sponsorship, as more businesses and individuals have come on board to lend us a hand this time around. We hope to see those numbers keep climbing and we get more next year and the year after that.”
Zimbabwe have been competing at the Paralympic Games since the country became independent in 1980, with the exception of the 1988 and 1992 Games.
During that time, the country won 17 medals — two gold, nine silver and six bronze.
However, the country’s last medal came at the 2004 edition when sprinter Elliot Mujaji won Zimbabwe’s second gold medal in Greece.
Coincidentally, the now-retired Mujaji won the country’s first gold at the Games.
Since the 2004 Paralympic Games in Greece, the country is yet to win a medal.