Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
Team Zimbabwe coaches for this year’s African Games are optimistic they will do the nation proud in Congo Brazzaville. The Games are scheduled to run from Friday to September 19, with athletes from across the continent taking part in 22 sporting disciplines. Zimbabwe is sending a 114-strong contingent, including officials and the country delegation.
The country will compete in athletics, beach volleyball, cycling, gymnastics, football, judo, karate, taekwondo, tennis, swimming and sport for the disabled.
Swimming sensation, Kirsty Coventry, is the captain of the team.
Tennis team manager, Linsent Chitiyo, said they know what to expect at the Games having seen some of the players at the ITF men’s futures tournaments held between June and July in Harare.
Some of the players to represent the country in tennis are the Davis Cup team members, Takanyi Garanganga and Mark Fynn.
Garanganga and Fynn were at the 2011 Games where the former won a gold medal before they partnered for the doubles in which they won a bronze.
“We already know some of our competitors within the region and looking at their performance, and at the performance of our athletes against them, I think we are ready to go.
“No one goes into a competition expecting to be second to anyone, we are going in there expecting the best team to be on the podium.
“Looking at the motivation and status of our athletes within the team, I think all of them are highly motivated, they are raring to go and they can’t wait for the tournament to start,” said Chitiyo.
One of the karate team members, Winston Nyanhete, said they were happy with the way their preparations went.
“Our preparations have been great, we have got seven athletes — one is in Canada and the other one is in UK and here we have got five athletes.
“We have been working a lot and ours is one of the most experienced teams especially in the zones.
“In Africa most people have introduced newcomers like the 18-year-olds so for our preparations we have been basing a lot on experience that experience is going to come on our side.
“We really left no stone unturned, we prepared basing on that we have got a lot of experience in the team.
“We will raise the country’s flag high. We have got experience, we have been there so we know what to expect and we have got high expectations of bringing medals,” said Nyanhete.
Taekwondo is fielding four athletes and they are also fancying their chances of claiming some medals with team member Fungai Magomelo saying they were ready for the battle.
“We are well prepared for these Games. We have had quite a good experience with other international matches, we have competed against South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique as part of our preparations.
“We believe we can do it. We have hope and faith that we are going to bring some medals because we are quite very fit.
“We are four athletes, Philip Rufasha was preparing in Russia, he is quite good and the other one is Phinias Dzingi, he scooped bronze in the last championship we had and Admire Tshitshiliza scooped a gold medal.
“I also scooped gold medal and we believe as part of Team Zimbabwe we are going to make it through,” said Magomelo.
Beach volleyball coach and manager, Vengai Nyaude, said the Games will be a learning curve for them since they were making their maiden appearance at the continental event.
“I have got two teams, a ladies team and a boys’ team. It’s our first time in the African Games, we don’t have much to say because it’s our first time but as a coach and manager I hope we will give something to the nation,” Nyaude said.
Athletics team managers, Precious Tarakino and Taitos Madzingo, said their athletes were geared up for the competition.
“Right now I can say we are now geared to go for the Games and our athletes are now well prepared, we have our athletes who have been training and competing out of the country like in this camp, we have three athletes who were camping here, the other four guys are outside the country.
“And we also have a girl, who has not yet arrived from the World Championships. So, we are geared to go and we are expecting some medals from them.
“Of course, whenever you are preparing to do something, whenever you are given an assignment, you have to have some expectations, especially on this major assignment, we are trying our best to have medals for the country,” said Tarakino.
The athletics team has seasoned athletes such as Olivia Chitate, who was recently at the World Championships in China, Constance Nyasango and Keegan Cooke.