ZOC to push team sports to qualify ZOC chief executive Marlene Gadzirayi says they are positive ahead of 2024 Olympic Games

Ellina Mhlanga

Senior Sports Reporter

THE Zimbabwe Olympic Committee will keep pushing to have team sports qualify for the Olympic Games.

Throughout history, only two women’s teams have made it to the Olympic games. Zimbabwe had the women’s hockey team at the 1980 Olympic Games in Russia and the women’s football team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

They have mostly had individual athletes qualifying for the Games and in an interview with Zimpapers Television Network, ZTN Prime’s Morning Rush, ZOC chief executive Marlene Gadzirayi said for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, they have provided assistance for teams to help their qualification bids.

These include rugby — the Cheetahs and Lady Cheetahs — as well as the national men and women’s hockey teams that are chasing qualification.

The Lady Cheetahs are set to travel to Tunisia for the Olympic qualifier to take place on October 14 and 15 and the hockey teams are expected to compete in their qualifier from October 29 to November 5 in Pretoria, South Africa.

The Cheetahs missed out on qualification when coming fourth at the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens staged at Harare Sports Club about two weeks ago. The 12-team tournament was al-so serving as the qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“So in terms of scholarships, yes they are for individual sport, but then another example is yes we are actually supporting the hockey team, they are going for qualifiers in South Africa . . . So it would really just always be better for Zimbabwe to have more athletes at the Olympics.

“It’s always good when you (are) looking at the Opening ceremony to see countries that have big delegations and Zimbabwe have maybe sometimes less than 10, so having a team qualifying is beyond amazing for Zimbabwe.

“So we really need to keep pushing on that and like I have said we were supporting the sevens — the Cheetahs, the Lady Cheetahs, the hockey team as well will be going to South Africa for qualifiers.

“So we are also trying our best to ensure that teams also get to qualify because it’s really better not just for the Olympic Committee but for the nation as a whole,” said Gadzirayi.

So far only marathon runner Isaac Mpofu has qualified for the Games. He is one of the 10 beneficiaries of the IOC Olympic Solidarity scholarships.

The other recipients are Andie Kuipers (triathlon), Donata Katai and Nomvula Mjimba (swimming) Justine Carla Hobbs and Stephen Cox (rowing), Fortunate Chidzivo, Chengetayi Mapaya and Tinotenda Matiyenga (athletics) and judoka Christi Rose Prestorius.

Most of the athletes are still in the qualification phase and the ZOC chief executive said they are optimistic.

And are also supporting other individual athletes that did not receive the Olympic Solidarity scholarships such as South Africa-based long distance runner Rutendo Nyahora.

“So we have one who has qualified, Isaac Mpofu in marathon. But others are still going through the qualifiers.

“Rutendo Nyahora, she is not on the scholarship but we have assisted her. We have Andie Kuipers in triathlon.

“So the qualifiers are still going on, so we actually are still keeping our fingers crossed that at least some of them qualify.

“We have Donata Katai also in swimming and Nomvula in swimming as well. So all those athletes are the ones who have the potential and we are hoping that as they go to the quali-fiers they do qualify,” said Gadzirayi.

In the previous Games, Zimbabwe had a team of five athletes competing in athletics, swimming, rowing and golf.

They will be hoping for an improved number of athletes this time around.

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