NAAZ hails Mpofu’s record breaking feat
Grace Chingoma-Senior Sports Reporter
NATIONAL Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president Tendai Tagara believes that long-distance runner Isaac Mpofu’s performance at the 2022 Valencia Marathon in Spain on Sunday where he broke the national record for the second time this year shows that the sporting code’s efforts are being rewarded.
Tagara is confident that Mpofu’s good performance will translate into more athletes qualifying for World Championships and the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Mpofu put up an amazing shift, crossing the finishing line in 2 hours 6 minutes 48 seconds, and finishing a credible 12th place in a strong field of 200 athletes.
The 34-year-old Mpofu is not showing signs of slowing down.
He broke the national record for the first time in July when he crossed the finish line in 2hrs 7minutes 57 seconds when finishing 10th at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, United States, where he beat the previous record that stood at 2hrs 9minutes 52 seconds set by Cuthbert Nyasango in 2014.
Tagara said they have embarked on a six-year plan.
“As previously mentioned, in the next six years we are focusing on homegrown solutions and they are bearing fruits. He is setting a standard in terms of training for performance and by creating a squad around him we can easily get athletes qualifying for the World Championships and the Olympic Games in 2024.
“Periodic camps, which we started this year, are helping many runners. We are appealing for support to have more camps targeted for performance,” said Tagara.
Mpofu could not hide his joy after his latest feat.
“I am happy, and surely I think it will motivate other athletes, so they can hit better times in the future. I think it also puts our country among the best,” he said.
“I’m now in a position were I feel I belong among the top marathon runners in the world. With structured camp, more assistance, better training grounds and equipment (I can do it). With good training partners, surely I will one day be in podium position.’’
The Valencia Marathon, also known as Marathon Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP for sponsorship reasons, is an annual marathon road running event held in Valencia, Spain, since 1981.
It is categorised as a Platinum Label Road Race by World Athletics. The race is organised by the Valencian sports club SD Correcaminos, which also organises the annual Valencia Half Marathon.
The marathon is ranked number one amongst marathons in the Spanish Road Races Ranking. Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum won the men’s race in 2:01:53, the fastest debut in history while Gabriel Geay of Tanzania was second with a personal best time of 2:02:59.
For Mpofu, the result was well-deserved considering the circumstances prior to his participation at the global meet.
In May this year, he ran a time of 2 hours 10 minutes 24 seconds during the Durban International Marathon in South Africa, which was a qualifying event for the World Athletics Championships held in Oregon. But his qualification was surrounded by uncertainty when he was disqualified for failing to wear a second bib at the back displaying a second licence number. He was wearing a front bib only during the race.
However, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe successfully appealed to Athletics South Africa (ASA), who had disqualified the athlete, so that they could reinstate his time in order for him to go to the World Championships.
And by then Mpofu proved himself by making the top 10 on the global stage.
By finishing in the top 10, Mpofu emulated Nyasango and Tendai Chimusasa who also made the top 10 at the Olympics.
Nyasango finished seventh at the London 2012 Olympics and Chimusasa was placed ninth at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Mpofu has hit many milestones this year. In September, he broke the Southern Africa Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisations Games (SARPCCO) half-marathon record and earned the country a gold medal, as the Zimbabwe Republic Police team continued to lead other countries in the competitions.