The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
ATHLETES and their coaches have to take next month’s National Track Championships seriously if they are entertaining hopes of making the grade for the rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, next year, National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) president Tendai Tagara has warned.
The Olympics, which were initially slated to begin on July 24 this year, were postponed to next year after the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“First and foremost, the return of athletics is a welcome development; one which both the federation and athletes welcome with open arms.
“Covid-19 was unplanned, so whatever position is taken by Government, we respect (it), and we are extremely happy that our athletes are finally able to resume training and competing,” said Tagara.
Having been given the nod to resume, albeit, under strict health protocols, NAAZ will host their first event — the National Track Championships — at White City Stadium in Bulawayo on November 29.
According to the new guidelines, NAAZ will only be able to hold 10 events.
Field events will, however, not be part of the meet.
“The green light has come with a lot of conditions . . . but it is better than not being able to hold an event.
“The guidelines and protocols, as provided by the ministry through the Sports and Recreation Commission, are (in) a big document, and we also got guidance from World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federation).
“Field events are very technical, hence require a lot of repetition of safety and hygiene practices, and it is for this reason that we have decided not to include them on the programme,” he said.
The marathon qualifying events began last month and will run until May next year, while the short- and middle-distance qualifiers will be held between December and May 2021. Tagara remains confident Zimbabwe will be able to send a big squad made up of marathon runners and most foreign-based athletes.
“We have run these short-format events before, and there should be no reason for athletes and coaches not to attend,” said Tagara.
“As a coach myself, the mantra is ‘train, compete and repeat’, and competing in events is important as it allows both the coach and athlete to gauge where they are in terms of progress.
“This is the first event after the lockdown and suspension of sporting events and should be taken seriously.
“All they have been doing for the past couple of months is train,” he said.
Insofar as Team Zimbabwe for the Olympics is concerned, Tagara said: “Qualifying events for the marathons started in September, and we are very confident that runners will make the grade in both the men and women categories.
“The last three years have seen a steady rise in numbers for men and we hope to maintain that momentum going into the Olympics.
“The women are also coming up, as we have sent marathon women to the World Championships, which is good for us. We have placed high hopes on some of our athletes based in the United States to qualify while they are competing there.
“They are in the best environment, have the best training facilities and coaches, and we see no reason why they should fail to make the grade.”