|Makusha wins top US athletics award|
|Friday, 16 December 2011 00:00|
ZIMBABWE'S track and field star athlete Ngonidzashe Makusha joined the immortals of Zimbabwean and American sport when he won the prestigious Bowerman Award in the United States on Wednesday night.
The Bowerman Award is the baby of the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association and is given to the top collegiate track and field athlete of the year in that country.
And Makusha captured this top American collegiate track and field award, which is named after legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman, after winning the 100m and long jump titles at this year's National Collegiate Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Des Moines in Iowa in June this year.
The NCAA Outdoor Championships are considered to be one rung below the IAAF World Championships and they are also seen as one of the toughest track and field competitions in the world.
Makusha capped his Florida State University track and field career with an NCAA Championship performance to remember in June.
Makusha, who this year was a junior at Florida State University, turned in one of the greatest performances in NCAA Championship history by winning the 100-metre dash in an NCAA-record time of 9.89 seconds, while adding long jump and 4x100 relay championship performances to his haul.
In the 100m, Makusha's winning time of 9.89 seconds broke Ato Bolden's collegiate and NCAA meet record of 9.92 seconds set in 1996.
He also soared 8.40 metres to win the long jump event at the same NCAA Outdoor Championships at Des Moines in June this year. Both the 100m and long jump standards established new national records for the Zimbabwe native. He closed out his spectacular NCAA performance by teaming with Kemar Hyman, Maurice Mitchell and Brandon Byram as the Seminoles captured the 4x100 relay title in 38.77.
With a direct hand in 30 of Florida State's 54 points, Makusha very nearly delivered Florida State its third NCAA team championship in six seasons.
The runner-up Seminoles came up one point shy of denying Texas A&M its third consecutive championship.
In fact, Makusha also pulled off a rare double by winning the long jump and 100 metres at the NCAA Outdoor championships.
That left him with the legendary Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens and DeHart Hubbard as the only Division One man to do so (Makusha also won the NCAA's indoor long jump title).
After producing these two outstanding performances at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Makusha was later named among the three finalists for this year's Bowerman Award.
And the 24-year-old Zimbabwean Olympian, who was controversially left out of last night's Annual National Sports Awards (ANSA) in his own country Zimbabwe, could not hide his excitement at a glittering ceremony at San Antonio in Texas on Wednesday night.
"This is awesome," Makusha told reporters soon after winning the award. "Never in my life did I think I would be standing in front of great people... If I didn't get this opportunity, my life would be very different in Zimbabwe."
Makusha celebrated Wednesday's triumphant night with his parents - Rhoda and Andrew Makusha - who travelled halfway around the globe, on their first airline flight, to attend the function. His coach at Florida State University, Bob Braman, could also not hide his excitement after his athlete's latest and greatest achievement.
"When you talk about the quality - you've got the collegiate record and a world class long jump, and a 4x100 that beat four of the finest teams in NCAA history - in terms of quality and championships, it's the best performance I've ever seen," Braman told Florida State university's official website yesterday.
"This is a tremendous honour. People who follow the Heisman Trophy understand the significance of being the top athlete in your sport.
"It's a tremendous honour for Florida State, presented to a guy that is spoken of in the same breath as Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens."
Fellow top United States-based Zimbabwean sprinter Brian Dzingai and the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee chief executive Anna Mguni also saluted Makusha for his remarkable achievement yesterday.
"He spoke eloquently and from the heart . . . truly proud to call him one of our own," wrote Dzingai on his Facebook wall yesterday.
Mguni also wrote on Facebook yesterday: "You go Ngoni!!!! Well done. Your 2011 achievements are not in vain! You have done us proud!!!!!
"Thank you Brian (Dzingai) - he (Makusha) spoke very highly of you and all that you have done to help him. Congratulations to you and indeed all the young people you continue to mentor."
According to Florida State University's official website, Makusha is just the fourth man in NCAA history to win both the 100m and long jump titles at the championship meet, joining Owens, Lewis and DeHart Hubbard.
Among the many honours the soft-spoken Makusha earned as a result of his dynamic junior season, were USTFCCCA NCAA Division I National Men's Track Athlete of the Year, the Atlantic Coast Conference Male Athlete of the Year and the ACC Men's Outdoor Field Performer of the Year.
In August, Makusha put a cap on his remarkable season with a bronze medal in the long jump at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Florida State assistants Ken Harnden and Dennis Nobles, who coached Makusha in the sprints and jumps, respectively, were on hand for the affair along with Braman.
Makusha, who will graduate from Florida State this weekend with his degree in economics, made a point to thank his parents and his coaches individually for their contributions to his development.
He also thanked all of the coaches in attendance for providing a system that allows student-athletes to better themselves. In capturing The Bowerman, Makusha was selected by a distinguished panel of voters over Florida's Christian Taylor and Washington State's Jeshua Anderson.
The Zimbabwean also won the online fan vote in the fall, claiming 42 percent of the votes.