The Sunday Mail
TEAM Zimbabwe is determined to qualify for the 2020 Olympics when they plunge into competition at the African Games in Morocco.
The 12th edition of the games is set for Casablanca and Rabat from August 19 to 31 while the Olympics will take place in Tokyo, Japan next year.
Zimbabwe will be represented at the Africa Games in shooting, athletics, cycling, judo, swimming, taekwondo, tennis and beach volleyball. These will be used as Olympic qualifiers.
For disciplines such as tennis, triathlon, beach volleyball, archery and judo, a podium finish will guarantee qualification.
Judo coach Stephen Pearson is looking forward to the games.
“We didn’t expect such numbers. We have confidence in the seven athletes streamlined for the games,” said Pearson.
“We identified four key athletes who have a very good chance of a podium finish and by extension Olympic qualification.
“Young Christ-Rose Pretorius is arguably one of the top fighters in the world and has already proved her mettle on the international stage as she is a junior champion. She certainly has a bright future in the sport.
“Three other fighters — Tapiwa Musariri, Sydney Mutero and Benjamin Mashayi — are fresh off a competition in South Africa, where they brought home two bronze medals and a gold one.“l hope they will continue in that fine form, going into the African Games.
“Due to budgetary constraints, we hardly compete in regional and international competitions, so this is it for us. We have to bring home the medals and qualify,’’ he said.
However, volleyball team manager Tawanda Sithole says their situation is not clear since the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) has not clarified on whether the African Games will be the sole qualification competition or not.
There has been no communication from the volleyball mother body, thereby leaving the Zimbabwe contingent in a precarious position.
“Traditionally, Olympic qualification is based on international ranking and we were expecting our ladies team to be well on their way to qualification since they are ranked 15th in the world,” said Sithole.
“However, that has since been changed and now we will have to attain a podium finish in both the boys and girls’ categories.
“To make matters worse, we are not aware if this is the only qualification route for African countries, we just have to put our best foot forward.
“Our team is expected to regroup on Monday (tomorrow). We hope to intensify their preparation then. We are fortunate to be leaving early as this gives us time to acclimatise in Morocco,” Sithole said.
The triathlon team also has their eyes on the Olympics, albeit the 2024 edition in France.Coach Pamela Fulton is confident they are on the right path.
“Our group mostly comprises of junior players, we currently do not have any athletes at the senior elite level.
“So this competition is mostly aimed at giving our triathletes a run at the highest level.
“We have our eye on the 2024 Games. This kind of competition will measure our strengths and weaknesses,” he said. However, all eyes will be on the track and field team, which currently has the biggest number of athletes at 15.They are expected to bring in the medals.
Athletics coach Phakamile Lismati appears unfazed by the impending task and expectations.
“There is absolutely no pressure, our boys and girls are highly motivated. They are looking forward to these Games.
“They have already been to big stages – the World Relay and the Senior African Championships. They have been preparing for some time now.
“This is the culmination of over 36 months of preparation through verification, selection and training. I believe this team reflects the very best our country has to offer.
“Olympic qualification will be the main target as it pertains to times and jumps, and given that we don’t really take part in that many competitions due to budgetary constraints, this is it for most of these guys.
“We will certainly do the nation proud,” Lismati said.