Lessons from Youth Games

HARARE - When top 1500m runner Enlitha Ncube competed bare feet at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Oregon, USA, many hoped that would be the last time a Zimbabwean athlete competes without spikes on tartan track.

Sadly, the lessons derived from that expedition of July 2014 did little to inspire change.

Five months later, Zimbabwe would again find themselves in the same predicament.

This time not on the shores of a Pacific Northwest city located in the State of Oregon but in the own backyard, the country’s second largest city, during the African Union Sports Commission (AUSC) Region V Youth Games.

To their credit. Zimbabwean athletes’ performance was characterized by passion, power and endurance.

But the sight of them competing bare feet on the recently installed White City Stadium running track left a lot to be desired.

Region V Games chef de mission, Sebastian Garikai, however, insisted that spikes were bought for every Team Zimbabwe athlete but the consignment arrived late.

“The government of Zimbabwe through the SRC acquired spikes for all our athletes but our spikes only came towards the competition,” Garikai said.

“But now that all our athletes have got spikes. We expect all athletes to be competing in spikes in the coming events either eternally or externally.

“You would also appreciate that the athlete that won the long jump did well without spikes. That girl from Muzarabani was used to competing without spikes.”

However, inquiries by this paper proved that although the purchase of spikes did take place not every athlete in Team Zimbabwe received them.

Athletes who spoke to the Daily News say they were told they would receive the spikes once they had arrived back at their respective bases after the Games but that never materialized.

The all-weather synthetic track surfacing made of polyurethane has become the standard for most elite competitions.

It has subsequently become a common place for the use of spikes to increase traction and speed amongst other advantages.

It was also disheartening that athletes had to sleep on the floor on the first day of the Games as bunk beds and mattresses had not yet been secured.

It was however, positive to note that excelling athletes were incentivized with gold medallists receiving $300, silver $200 and $100 for bronze.

On the administrative side, the major hiccups evolved around money with officials, police officers, medical personnel and some transport operators still owed moneys for rendering their services.

Sport Minister Andrew Langa has, however, assured all individuals and corporates that they will be paid.

“It’s an issue I believe we are managing. But what we need to take note off is that the Youth Games were a success,” Langa told the Daily News on the sidelines of the Annual National Sports Awards on Wednesday night.

“We still have some extending payment and as we speak we are still trying to payback all outstanding dues. All those who were contracted all those who gave services will be paid.”

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