Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Olympic Committee’s chief executive Anna Mguni says although Zimbabwe is going to field its biggest team at the Olympic Games this year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, there is need to be realistic on the number of medals that the nation can win.
Zimbabwe has since Independence won eight medals at the Games — one from the hockey’s Golden Girls team in 1980 in Moscow, Russia, while swimming sensation, Kirsty Coventry, won seven other medals in 2004 and in 2008.
However, in 2012 Zimbabwe returned home-empty handed from the London Games.
And Mguni yesterday said with more athletes expected to qualify this year, the potential size of Team Zimbabwe is 76 consisting of 44 athletes, 25 officials and seven others for administration, management and medical.
But she made it clear that expecting medals from Brazil may not be realistic as there are a number of factors that have to be considered “before we can talk about medals”.
“What we always need to realise and bear in mind is that when a team or athletes qualify for the Olympics, they would have done something good because of the standards that are set which are very high.
“We are not talking of being invited here, we are talking about qualification. So that’s the first step we need to recognise.
“The second step we need to recognise is it’s a process. So how have we supported that process because to qualify is one thing and to prepare and be at the level of competition that can get you medals is another thing.
“We are looking exactly at what the world records are, what the targets are, you know what you are looking for. But how have we supported that and if we don’t support it adequately we cannot expect results at the end.
“The support I am talking about is making sure that our athletes are exposed to international competition that consistently raises their level of competition.
“If we don’t have that in place it’s unfair, unjust and difficult for us to actually say we are going to have one medal, we are going to have two medals and this is where we are going to be,” said Mguni.
So far the women’s football team have booked their place at the Games.
Coventry has also qualified.
Michael Nicholson has attained qualification in shooting and there are four athletes that have attained qualification in the men’s marathon.
Wirimai Juwawo is leading the pack with his time of 2hours 14minutes 25seconds.
Other long distance-runners — Cuthbert Nyasango, Gilbert Mutandiro and Pardon Ndhlovu — will be hoping to make it among the three slots available for each country as this will be decided based on the best times by the athletes.
The door is still open for women to qualify for the marathon and athletes for track and field events.
Rowers Micheen Thornycroft and Peter Purcell-Gilpin have also qualified for the Games while equestrian, rugby and golf are still in the qualifying process.
“We must give credit to the athletes themselves who are training and pushing for the very best the whole time. So I think we will give our best and I have said this at every single Games, the athletes will give their best.
“So we sincerely hope for the best.
“I know Kirsty (Coventry) will probably give her best again. Camilla Kruger (equestrian) if she qualifies, she is on a very good horse. In shooting again it’s about various factors coming into place.
“Team sport is too difficult. If we speak realistically the team sport will be very difficult because if you look at the rankings, where we are and the teams above us it’s going to be difficult.
“I am not going to commit that we will have any medals, I can’t do that because I will be putting pressure on the athletes and it’s not fair,” said Mguni.
However, the ZOC chief executive said with the Ministry of Sport in place now, it marks the beginning of a process that might see Zimbabwe witnessing some major changes which could eventually bring medals.
“I think what is most important is to put the efforts together because there are a lot of different people who are doing a number of correct things but we are just not coordinating it.
“Everybody has got a role to play because it’s like a conveyor belt and everyone has a contribution to put in.
“I believe that under the current Ministry of Sport, and a very enthusiastic Minister, we have already started in the right direction.
“One of the areas we need to focus on is coach development in Zimbabwe and absolutely put in place rules that say if you are coaching at national level you can only be of a certain pedigree.
“The region has guidelines so we can follow those,” Mguni said.
ZOC will be announcing the final team in July ahead of the Games in August.