The Sunday Mail
DESPITE the bulk of the country’s sporting disciplines being male-dominated, Zimbabwe’s sport excellence is a tale of ‘her-story’, with the women achieving greater results for the country.
For all the sporting enthusiasm in this country, somehow it is the women who have eclipsed their male counterparts in performing on the grand stages. It all started in 1980, the year fondly remembered for Zimbabwe’s independence, which brought with it the country’s first Olympic medal. The winners of that gold medal in Moscow became known as ‘The Golden Girls’ after triumphing in the women’s field hockey in Russia.
Zimbabwe had to wait for two decades for another Olympic glory and the source wasn’t surprising- a woman named Kirsty Coventry — who triumphed at Athens 2004 claiming silver in the 100m backstroke. She capped off her fantastic campaign with a gold medal in the 200m backstroke and a bronze medal in the 200m Individual medley. Coventry went on to finish her career in 2016 as a decorated five-time Olympian with seven medals two gold, four silver and one bronze.
Now, the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Coventry is Zimbabwe’s most decorated Olympian of all time, and Africa’s most successful female swimmer. In 2016, the football Mighty Warriors proved mightier by becoming the first sporting team from Zimbabwe to feature at the Olympics, a feat which remains a pipe dream for the men. Earlier this year in May the national women’s cricket team — the Lady Chevron — played outstanding cricket during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup African Region Qualifier in Harare.
The Zimbabwe women’s team were unbeaten during the tournament to book a place at the ICC Women’s World T20 Qualifier set for Scotland in August. Currently the buzzword in local sport is Gems and this stemming from Zimbabwe Netball fantastic run during their maiden World Cup appearance in Liverpool, England.
They have played with passion and composure like they have been there before and resultantly superlatives have come thick and fast for the side set to be arguably the best sporting team from Zimbabwe. Veteran sports administrator Titus Zvomuya believes the future of Zimbabwean sport is with women.“What this means is that the glory of Zimbabwean sport lies with the girl child.
“They are the people who will take Zimbabwean sport to the next level, they have the potential, zeal, commitment and focus,” said Zvomuya.
The SRC board member, however, bemoaned systems that have stifled the growth of women in sport.“Unfortunately because of culture and tradition we haven’t done justice to women sport as a nation, we need to rethink as a Government, the SRC and national associations on how we treat women in sport.“I am also encouraging local universities to carry out research on the scientific base in terms of how we can tap into this.
“Look at cricket, rowing, Mighty Warriors and now netball. This is no mean achievement. We need to celebrate them,” said Zvomuya.
Zimbabwe Olympic Committee president Admire Masenda echoed the same sentiments saying his organisation will always support sport development whenever they can.
“We need a paradigm shift, the girl child is not supported firstly at family level, we can talk about funding but family should start supporting.
“As ZOC we will continue with programmes that help sports development, we don’t waiver on that, but we don’t own the athlete,” said Masenda.
In spite of the cultural challenges they face, the women in sport in Zimbabwe have continued to defy the odds and they will once again come under the spotlight when Team Zimbabwe takes part in the African Games in Morocco.