By Senator David Coltart, Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, Zimbabwe – AfricanBrains
This piece originally appeared in The African Herald on the 22 August 2012.
Firstly, we must congratulate our Olympic flag-bearer Kirsty Coventry and the entire Zimbabwe Olympic team for their outstanding efforts at London 2012. These ladies and gentlemen not only serve as ambassadors of Zimbabwean athletics but are points of inspiration to aspiring athletes of the next generation, continent-wide.
Our athletes faced unique challenges in preparation for the Olympics and we are slowly coming to appreciate the obstacles that they overcame to excel at their crafts and compete with the best in the world.
Moving forward, we must acknowledge the pertinent role sport plays in instilling patriotism, promoting investment in our Nation and uniting our society. Beyond the great support these athletes received from our citizenry more simply must be done from a monetary, and infrastructural reform standpoint. We must grant them the right to train like the best in order to beat the best and play in a competitive field with accountability and oversight for all.
Kirsty as an example, is not one to look at hardship and an arduous road ahead in a pessimistic light. I therefore implore our international online audience to visit her website and lend their support to her ongoing endeavors.
If the truth be told, Kirsty has not had the benefit of financial support at a competitive level and therefore had only raced twice prior to the London Olympics. In this light, her efforts, along with those athletes in Zimbabwe with similar yet unique back-stories such as triathlete Chris Felgate, Rower Jamie Fraser McKenzie and the marathon trio of Cutbert Nyasango, Wirimayi Juwawo and Sharon Tawengwa, are simply remarkable.
Our government has to come up with a strategy to identify talent and provide a sound system of development and support in the transition from school to club and then professional and national participation. This not only involves financial reprioritization, but indeed from an overarching athletic perspective, institutional reform.
Our world class cricketers, rugby players and footballers at both the amateur and professional levels have a fanatical following throughout the nation and beyond. However, one has been inclined to confront the topics of controversy when referring to ZIFA and the Zimbabwe Rugby Union governance systems, respectively.
Match fixing and politics at play, even at an infrequent incidental level, creates a toxic environment for current and hopeful players to work within and has led to disillusionment, an emotion Zimbabwe can wisely do without.
Our work to dynamically enhance the athletic training and gamesmanship experience is a never-ending uphill climb. We therefore admire our Olympic champions like Kirsty for overcoming all odds and leading by example.
We at MOESAC know in time we will be able to provide a platform to foster talent at every sport to compete with every nation. Sportsmanship itself is knowing that while on the starting mark or at the center of the pitch, we are only as a good as our opponents, we leave the game with an understanding that whether one wins or loses, one gave 100 percent. I stand along with all of Zimbabwe in applauding our London 2012 athletes for having done so.