Tedious Manyepo Sports Reporter
LOCAL judo Master Simon Mapanda and his son Simba recently made history after they became Zimbabwe’s first judo pair of parent and offspring to share the podium when they grabbed a gold and a bronze medal respectively in the annual South Africa Open Championships held in Bloemfontein.
The duo will also go down in Zimbabwe’s history as the first set of father and son to fight in the same Masters’ bracket.
The father, Simon (67), a veteran marshal arts who broke a record by becoming the first black to be incorporated into the then Rhodesian judo team in the mid-1960s, took home a gold medal at the event where he brushed off stiff competition from over 20 other contestants in the 73kg and under category.
His 34-year-old son Simba weighed in with a bronze medal in the 84kg and under division as Zimbabwe brought two medals from the competition for the first time in the history of the sport in this country.
In fact, the country sent representatives for the regional tournament for the first time in three years and they included one female judoka Janine Kayaya.
The other members of Team Zimbabwe that took part in this year’s South Africa Open Championships were Simbarashe Shonhiwa, Moses Mutende, Lazarus Arufandika and Sydney Mutero.
Despite receiving invites to be part of the fiesta in the past years, the Judo Association of Zimbabwe could not afford to dispatch teams for the event citing financial constraints.
But the newly-appointed JAZ executive, which assumed office in March, seems to have struck the right chords as they have already attracted corporate partners, Zimbabwe Motor Distributors, who bankrolled the team’s participation at the event.
Despite receiving the invitation at short notice, the JAZ managed to gather a team of six seniors, two juniors and as many Masters.
The team’s coach, Simbarashe Mashayi, who doubled up as the manager for the trip to South Africa, expressed satisfaction over the manner in which his charges went about it at the tournament.
“I was very much impressed by my squad. They punched well above their weight considering we had spent a number of years without being part of the tournament (in South Africa).
“The only competitive events these athletes took part during the past three years were confined within provinces especially Harare.
“So taking into consideration all those factors, I thought we were just going to South Africa to get exposure but somehow the fighters did the unexpected and some of them ended up winning medals.
“It is my hope that in the forthcoming tournaments, when we would have prepared well for them, the athletes will perform wonders.
“We have so many talented athletes in judo but the sport has not been blossoming of late due to lack of sponsorship but the new executive has brought in hope in the sport.
“I believe that in the coming few months we will be somewhere,” Mashayi said.
The new JAZ president, Smart Dekwe, saluted the athletes for their outstanding performance in South Africa and hinted brighter days are in the offing for the sport.
“We want to develop the sport and make it big in the country. Previously, judo has been confined to big cities but we want to make sure we decentralise the sport.
“We have since introduced the sport in Mashonaland Central, Norton and this weekend, we will launch it in Epworth.
“We have also been given the green-light to introduce the sport at schools and we are working at the modalities which will see us work towards that,” said Dekwe.
Meanwhile, Tobias Musariri, the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Motor Distributors, said they were happy with the Zimbabwe judo team’s performance in South Africa and will assist JAZ in their development programmes.
The Zimbabwe Motor Distributors came to the team’s rescue before their departure for South Africa with a kit sponsorship.
“This was the first time that we came in as one of the major sponsors of the Zimbabwe judo team and we are happy that they came back home with two medals which shows that there was some commitment from all the team members.
“We are now looking forward at forging a partnership with the Judo Association of Zimbabwe and help them in the development of the sport in this country,” said Musariri whose sons Majaji and Justin are also into judo.
In fact, Majaji and Justin are already household names in the junior judo circles in South Africa where they have won a number of medals.
Majaji and Justin are multi-talented as they are also into the motorcycling sport of motocross and regularly feature in local race meetings at Donnybrook in Harare.