Team Zimbabwe’s new blood

03 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Team Zimbabwe’s new blood Mikayla Makwabarara

The Sunday Mail

Petros Kausiyo

Sports Editor

MIKALYA MAKWABARARA, who turned 16 yesterday, will write another piece of history when she travels to Accra, Ghana, as one of the three youngest members of Team Zimbabwe at the African Games.

Rohnan Nicholson, Calum Smith and Makwabarara will be part of the cast that will compete at the quadrennial Pan-African sports showpiece scheduled for March 8-23.

Makwabarara, a teenage swimming sensation, celebrated her birthday thousands of kilometres away from home.

She is determined to help her team of swimmers to secure a podium finish in Ghana.

Rohnan Nicholson

Rohnan Nicholson

Last week, she was presented with full national colours — a green blazer and tie — in absentia by the Zimbabwe Aquatic Union during the Zimbabwe swimming championships at Les Brown.

As a 14-year-old, Makwabarara was in the team that represented Zimbabwe at the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Games in Malawi, which brought back three medals.

But the African Games, which have a bigger challenge and higher profile, are the ultimate sports showcase on the continent.

Makwabarara, who is now based in the United Kingdom, is one of the 10 swimmers who will take to the blue waters and challenge for honours at the Games, including in the 100 metres freestyle.

The other swimmers are Joash McKonie, Donata Katai, Denilson Cyprianos, Liam Davis, Benjamin Rorke, Bjorn Mhlanga, captain Paige Van Der Westhuizen, Vhenekai Dhemba and Olivia Accorsi.

Makwabarara is the youngest of that group of swimmers but appears to have already matured beyond her teenage years.

In 2020, she hogged the limelight when she broke Kirsty Coventry’s 25-year national record in the 100m freestyle after clocking 1:03,97s.

She also followed this up with some decent performances at the Africa and World Junior Aquatic championships in Mauritius and Israel last year.

She might have recently enrolled at Millfield School in the UK five months ago, but her father, Brian, and coaches have been impressed by the strides she is making.

“She is in the UK to access better facilities, heated swimming pools and she has already started improving.

“The coaches are happy with the progress she has been making and they are working on her technique and aerobics, and they believe that after a year and with the intensified training, she should be much better.”

He said Mikayla used to swim two-and-a-half kilometres per training session in Zimbabwe, but she now swims five km per session, as well as extra lessons on psychology in swimming.

He added: “She is also happy that her underwater, her times and her technique are all improving and this we attribute to the coaching staff in the UK, who recognised that she has talent in a number of techniques, has total determination and believe she can be a great swimmer.

“Her biggest attributes are that she has a very fast stroke, is a quick learner and is very determined. She wants it so much and determination is something that one cannot be taught by coaches.”

Smith will turn 16 in October, while Nicholson will reach that milestone on December 28.

With age firmly on their side, the trio is also being prepared by Team Zimbabwe for more African Games beyond Ghana and future Olympic Games.

The presence of the teenage prodigies in the contingent travelling to Ghana this week underscores Team Zimbabwe’s thrust to have a side that balances youth and experience by using the African Games as a platform to expose emerging talent to the rigours of elite competition.

Triathlon coach Pamela Fulton acknowledged as much.

She said the St John’s College pair of Nicholson and Smith have had to compete in the elite category due to the absence of seniors in the men’s section.

Nicholson and Smith also enjoy a special rivalry, with the former being ranked number one, while the latter is considered the second best.

Fulton said the triathletes would fine-tune for the Accra event by competing at the Africa Triathlon Cup Maselspoort in South Africa.

“Despite being 15 years and turning 16, they will compete in the Under-19 category; so exceptionally tough going for them but good experience and practice for the Games where they will compete against elite athletes,” Fulton said.

“They have both been in the sport for many years with a great rivalry, always pushing each other in each race.

“They both have similar strengths and weaknesses. Weaker in the swim and exceptionally strong in both the bike and run segment.

“In triathlon, it certainly helps having a strong swim so you can be with the front pack on the bike and help conserve energy by drafting.”

Fulton added that the pair had of late been putting in a good shift in working on their weaknesses.

“Both Rohnan and Callum have worked hard in the swim discipline but still have to work exceptionally hard on the bike playing catch up, and then run the fastest five kilometres they can.

“Unfortunately, Zimbabwe does not have any elite men in triathlon as they tend to leave the country at university age and stop competing in triathlon.

“Callum and Rohnan are our strongest and fastest men in the country, and I am sure they will do us proud. This will be a proud moment for them as they represent their country at such a young age and have the opportunity to compete with the best men in Africa.”

@petrospablo1

 

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