Zim scored successes under Queen’s reign
Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE had a long and successful history with the Commonwealth under the leadership of Queen Elizabeth.
Coming out of international isolation in 1980, the newly independent nation immediately began a quest for medals across Commonwealth Games events.
Langton ‘’Schoolboy’’ Tinago wasted no time getting Zimbabwe among the titles, winning the Commonwealth lightweight title by defeating Nigerian Hogan Jimoh in Lagos.
He would take the super featherweight title in 1983 beating another Nigerian Safiu Oke Badan in Harare, then defeating Australian Greame Brooke in Manchester in 1986 to claim the lightweight title.
Tinago, who had already begun making strides before Independence, carried the torch when the country gained Independence in 1980. He was crowned Commonwealth champion three times, winning the lightweight title twice, and the super-featherweight crown once, earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Tinago was also a challenger for the Commonwealth light-welterweight title held by Billy Famous in the 80s.
He would not be the last boxer to take the title. Alfonso “Mosquito” Zvenyika was crowned the Commonwealth flyweight champion in 1998, carving his name among the country’s all-time boxing greats.
He won the vacant title when he beat Briton Paul Weir in Glasgow, Scotland, in January 1998. The boxer went on to successfully defend the title in May of the same year, against another Briton Keith Knox.
His exploits saw him becoming the second Zimbabwean, after three-time Commonwealth champion Tinago, to win the club title.
Zimbabwe didn’t end their exploits in the ring. The swimming pool was a favourite medals mine for the country.
Diver Evan Stewart also won two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. In 1998, Stewart clinched gold at the 98 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in the one-metre springboard. He had earlier in 1994 picked silver and bronze in the three-metre and one-metre springboard events at the Club Games in Victoria, Canada.
Kirsty Coventry participated at the Commonwealth Games in 1998 as a 15-year-old. And four years later, at the Manchester Aquatics Centre, she won the 200m individual medley.
As the world mourns Queen Elizabeth, Zvenyika also mourned the Queen reflecting on his Commonwealth journey in boxing.
“It is painful and sad to lose the Queen. She was a mother of the Commonwealth. She was part and parcel of the Commonwealth. May her soul rest in peace and God be with her,” said Zvenyika.
Zvenyika remembers with pride when he had a chance to pass through the residence of the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth, when he was in Scotland.
“I never had a chance to meet her but I am glad I was part of the history of the Commonwealth.
“I brought glory to my country and the tender age of 23, I was a champion in Glasgow. I defended the Commonwealth title in June with a knockout in round eight. This brings joy to me.
“It is a big achievement, and I take pride in knowing that I am among the few Zimbabweans that include my Minister Coventry to have reached that level,” said Zvenyika.
Zvenyika says his achievements were not personal but were for his country.
“It was not personal glory and I really and appreciate and value that I was able to represent the country with pride.
“I achieved something great but I was not fortunate and never got an opportunity to meet the country’s top leaders.
“The current boxers are very fortunate that they have been able to meet the President and the Sports ministers.
“I just hope that I remain a boxing hero to the upcoming athletes and inspire young boxers that are coming up to do more,” he said.
Controversy has stalked Zvenyika and the former athlete no longer has anything to show for his triumphs.
“I made a lot of mistakes and I even tell the young kids that I am training. I tell these youngsters my life experiences. I don’t need to read them from a book but I am the book myself,” concludes Zvenyika.