Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
A SLOW start characterised the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe 2018 season-opening meet at the National Sports Stadium yesterday with many high profile athletes conspicuous by their absence.
Although there were around 15 athletes at the track and field event at the National Stadium’s B Arena, most of the top names did not feature in the competition which was set to give them the first indication of their level of preparedness for what promises to be a busy year for them.
However, such athletes like Vimbai Maisvoreva, sprinter Shingirai Hlanguyo, Wellington Varevi and Nyasha Mutsetse were in action yesterday.
Maisvoreva, who was sixth in the 800m race at the World Under-18 championships in Kenya last July, ran in the junior women 400m yesterday where she came first in 58seconds and is currently working on her speed.
It is also her target event for qualification to the World Under-20 championships in July, in Finland.
“I have been working hard for 2018. I want to do well this year. I am hoping to meet the times for the World Junior championships.
“I am very optimistic, if I qualify for World Juniors I think I can get a medal because I learnt a lot at the World Youth in Kenya and it has actually helped me as an athlete.
“So I am aiming to qualify for 400m. I am working on speed and time at the moment,” said Maisvoreva.
NAAZ have this year placed their major focus on juniors and the youth, who have got major competitions lined up for the year.
The youth have the African Youth Games in Algeria, in July and the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina, later in the same month.
NAAZ will be hoping they can attract more athletes in the forthcoming events to create more competition as well as enhance the competitiveness of the locals when they go for qualifying events.
But if yesterday’s slow start was anything to go by then the athletics mother body would have to review their timing of events.
This is because it emerged that some of the athletes who had wanted to compete opted out as they turned their attention to final preparations for the re-opening of schools tomorrow.
While the numbers were a bit better for juniors and youths it was a different case with most of the seniors failing to turn up.
But for those that turned up they utilised the opportunity with Hlanguyo saying it was a good platform to fine-tune his techniques in a competition situation.
Hlanguyo, who is turning 20 in May came second in the senior men 100m in 10.72seconds behind Raymond Ngavi, who posted a time of 10.54seconds as he prepares for his next challenge in the seniors.
He was third in 200m, in 22.41seconds.
First to cross the finish line in that 220m race was Artwell Simon in 22.40seconds, followed by Panashe Mutisi in 22.41seconds.
It was Hlanguyo’s last local race before he joins California State University, in the United States.
“For me it was really good, it’s still the beginning of the season even though it was my last race in Zimbabwe. But I am still happy about what I came out to do. I came out to work on my technique and I am still seeing that my technique still have got a bit of flaws.
“So I am not really worried about my speed, all I am just really trying to focus on is fixing my technique and then once that’s fixed speed comes back quickly . . . I have got no problem with speed. So that’s what I am just trying to fix.
“I was really focusing on my drive phase, first 20-40m of the race and after that the last 20m of the race as well, as well my arm swing movements and everything just trying to make sure I still got it and then speed is still there. I was just holding back a lot because I really wanted to focus on those areas,” Hlanguyo said.
Varevi and Mutsetse came out tops in 1500m and 800m respectively but the latter expressed concern over the low turnout as he feels he did not get the challenge he wanted.
“To be honest the challenge is that sometimes I don’t get enough competitions. If they are there (competitors) sometimes they are not that tough, like today (yesterday) there are no seniors.
“As an athlete you need motivation from other athletes and sometimes you need someone who pushes you to run better times. So if it’s possible I would want to go for more competitive events than these ones,” said Mutsetse.
The meet marked the beginning of actual competition for this year and the next event is on Sunday in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe Olympic Committee vice-president Thabani Gonye and veteran sports administrator Robert Mutsauki were among the officials at the completion yesterday.