Cooke eyes All-Africa Games, Rio 2016

HARARE - National decathlon record holder Keegan Cooke is not fazed by going on a solo international decathlon journey.

The former University of Arizona student completed his full track and field scholarship last year, graduating with a degree in global studies. Cooke, who will be leaving for the US this morning, says he is ready to emulate retired Zimbabwean triathlete, Chris Felgate, a veteran of two Olympics despite being a lone elite representative in the country.

“Yes I will be walking on a very similar path to Chris Felgate. He’s somebody I look up to and have spoken to him before about this journey and he’s been very encouraging,” Cooke told the Daily News yesterday.

“For me loneliness doesn’t come down to whom you share that journey with and it’s something that I ultimately eliminate because of my faith in Christ and my relationship with the Lord and obviously with the support from my family, fiancé (Anne Suddens) and everyone I don’t think there’s an opportunity for me to feel lonely; wearing the Zimbabwe jersey all by myself is actually a privilege more than anything else.”

Decathlon is a 10-event track and field athletic contest competed over two days. It comprises of the 100m sprint, 400m and the 1500 m run, hurdles, javelin, discus throws, shot put, pole vault, high jump and long lump.

The 25-year-old decathlete broke the long standing national record held by national great Stan Flowers for 23 years in 2012 before he again bettered his mark last year.

Flowers garnered 6 519 points in August 1989 while competing in Lagos, Nigeria, but Cooke finally outwitted his long-time friend  and admirer when he clocked 6 573 points in Arizona. Last year he went a step higher by scoring 7 078 points breaking his own record while in the States.

“I broke the decathlon national record for the first time in 2012, previously it was held by Stan Flowers who is not only a national record holder in the track and field events but he’s also a good friend of mine,” he said.

“I grew up with his (Flowers) sons and went to school with them and when I was really young, Stan used to tell me that I should be a decathlete or try jumping or shot putting but I didn’t take it seriously.

“I was concerned about going round in the bush chasing animals, snakes and stuff. So I went to the States on a scholarship having broken the national record, then I broke it again last year. This has set me fifth in African decathlon, the best decathlon mark for 2013 and this is more of an achievement than breaking the national record.”

The former Gateway junior and high school student is determined to qualify for the 2015 All-Africa Games and enhance his chances of making it to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Olympics is the big goal right now but the more important goal is the All-Africa Games 2015. My eyes are fully fixed on that event to represent Zimbabwe and to do well,” he added.

“My goal is not to win a medal or to break a record, but to progress and do the absolute best that I can.”

He admits it’s not going to be easy for him.

“If you say to me can I eat an elephant, my first reaction will be no I can’t but I have a bigger appetite and I know if I take big bites everyday by the time I get to 2015 that elephant will be almost finished. So it is a big goal to go to the All-Africa Games and represent Zimbabwe as a decathlete and I think that can be achieved.”

Ram Petroleum has since agreed to partner him in his quest to reach Rio in 2016.

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