Mixed fortunes for Zim sport

18 Dec, 2021 - 00:12 0 Views
Mixed fortunes for Zim sport Donata Katai

The Herald

Ellina Mhlanga Senior Sports Reporter

IT’S just two weeks before the year comes to an end and for sport in Zimbabwe, 2021 was a bag of mixed fortunes with some positives, ups and downs as the world continues to adjust to the new normal due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unlike the previous year where sport was hugely ravaged by the pandemic, 2021 saw some improvements with more sporting activities on the local scene finding their way back, particularly those sport codes that had been classified as high risk.

These include football, netball and karate, among others.

Though it has not been on a full scale with netball leagues having crash programmes, it brought some joy and hope to local sport fanatics.

Towards the end of July, Zimbabwe participated at the rescheduled 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

It was a small team of five athletes — Ngoni Makusha in athletics, swimmers Donata Katai and Peter Wetzlar, golfer Scott Vincent and rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin.

The major highlight from the team was young Katai.

Competing at the Olympics for the first time, Katai came first in her heat in the women’s 100m backstroke with a time of 1 minute 02.73 seconds, setting a new personal best time as she made history by becoming the first black Zimbabwean swimmer to compete at the global multi-sport showpiece.

She may not have won a medal but the teenage swimmer’s appearance at the Games was an inspiration to many young athletes that with determination, anything is possible.

Katai was also part of the swimming team that won 26 medals for Team Zimbabwe at the African Union Sports Council Region Five Youth Games which were recently held in Maseru, Lesotho.

Swimming was the major contributor for Team Zimbabwe at the Regional Games.

It was also a good year for golfer, Scott Vincent. He became the first local golfer to represent the country at the Olympics and finished on position 16.

It was the best performance from Team Zimbabwe.

Vincent went on to win the Sansan KBC Augusta and ANA Open in Japan.

Football bounced back with the Chibuku Super Cup which was played in a mini-league format. The tournament began in May before it was put on hold along the way due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

But it returned at the end of September and the final was played early this month with FC Platinum winning the trophy after beating Ngezi Platinum at Mandava.

The Premier Soccer League games are also underway, though it’s still in its infancy. The league failed to kick-off last year because of Covid-19.

The Zimbabwe senior netball team returned to international competition for the first time in two years when they took part in the Pent Series and Africa Netball Cup in Windhoek, Namibia, in November.

The Gems had last competed at an international level in 2019 and their last event then was the Africa Netball Cup in South Africa.

Since then, they had not regrouped due to the Covid-19 pandemic until the Pent Series and Africa Netball Cup.

Triathlon Zimbabwe had a team going to Egypt for the Africa Championships and picked some medals there. They also managed to host the Bonaqua Africa Triathlon Cup Troutbeck in September.

In cricket, the Lady Chevrons gained One Day International status, which brought joy to the women’s cricket team and their first ODI series was against Ireland.

During the first match of the series captain, Mary-Anne Musonda wrote her own piece of history when she became the first female cricketer in Zimbabwe to register an ODI century, at Harare Sports Club, in October.

Zimbabwe then hosted the ICC Women Cricket World Cup Qualifier before it was aborted due to the introduction of travel restrictions for a number of African countries, including Zimbabwe, following the outbreak of a new coronavirus variant last month.

Nine countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, USA, Sri Lanka, Netherlands, West Indies, Ireland and host Zimbabwe — were involved in the World Cup qualifying tournament in Harare.

Being granted the right to host the event and having teams coming for the event for those limited days was something positive for local sport and the country at large.

The Chevrons also had some tours, including a tour of the United Kingdom. Former captain Brendan Taylor played his last international game during that tour as he retired from international cricket, in September.

Zimbabwe Cricket then received some good news when they were announced as co-hosts for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2027 alongside South Africa and Namibia by the International Cricket Council, which was a welcome development.

In motorsport, Emmanuel Bako was trailblazing, becoming a triple champion in South Africa after winning a number of events, including the National Motocross Championship in that country, in the 85cc Pro Mini Class.

The Bogwheelers Club, who run the motorcycling sport of motocross in this country, also managed to stage five rounds of their National Championship series as well as the season-ending Zimbabwe Summer Series, which was held last weekend at Donnybrook Park Raceway in Harare.

And seven-year-old rider, Victor Nyamupfukudza, wrote his own piece of history when he cruised to victory in the 50cc Class, claiming his first major title in his promising career.

The Zimbabwe Summer Series also saw prominent local businessman, Alex ‘’Dr Mash’’ Mashamhanda, coming on board, as he gave some financial assistance to Nyamupfukudza, through his company, Mashwede Holdings, and this spurred the promising young rider to victory in the 50cc Class.

Donnybrook Raceway Park also hosted a number of karting events during the year.

Zimbabwean professional golfer Robson Chinhoi won two Safari Tour Series in Kenya and was crowned the 2021 Seed Co Malawi Open Champion in Lilongwe.

Bodybuidling was not to be outdone and female bodybuilder Regina Jonga was outstanding at the XFE Classic held in South Africa when winning the female first division.

On the down side, for the second year running, there are no football league champions and Soccer Star of the Year.

The national Under-21 women’s hockey team were left in tears after the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup that was set to take place in Potchefstroom, South Africa, was postponed at the 11th hour due to Covid-19.

Zimbabwe cricket was rocked by the Heath Streak scandal that saw him being banned by the International Cricket Council from all international cricket for eight years after he was found on the wrong side in a match-fixing scandal.

These were some of the highlights for 2021, but looking at the positive side of it, steps have been made towards the resumption of sport and hopefully, 2022 brings better fortunes.

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