After Comrades, Muzhingi dreams big

HARARE - After gaining international recognition as an ultra-marathon runner, Stephen Muzhingi now wants to offer a bridge for other young Zimbabwean athletes.

However, Muzhingi’s road to the top was not smooth sailing.

He had tried to make a name through running in his own country, but his plans hit a brick wall as the sport here does not enjoy a good following.

Muzhingi found an alternative base in South Africa where he was embraced with both hands after being spotted by Cliff Chinnasamy while taking part in the Savages Half Marathon and went on to be moulded into a champion winning the Comrades Marathon three times.

And true to the biblical proverb — a prophet has no honour in his own land — Muzhingi went on to become more popular in a foreign land than in his own and was even offered an opportunity to become a South African citizen, which he turned down.

“I was very popular outside the country yet I am a Zimbabwean. I was hurt at times to think that I am being appreciated more outside the country than in my home country,” Muzhingi said.

“I’m a huge brand now. If you go to South Africa you will see me advertising stuff there but here in Zimbabwe it’s actually the opposite. Local companies do not even recognise brands something that can go a long way in motivating upcoming youngsters.

“I was very happy when I won the Comrades. South Africans were the ones who put me on the map. They even wanted me to change my citizenship but I turned down their request. They put enough money for me to be in a good shape to win.”

Muzhingi, who also won the celebrated Two Oceans Marathon, has since set an example to others on how to overcome adversity to achieve your goals after waiting for 17 years to win his first Comrades Marathon race.

“I never won any race in Zimbabwe, I am a Comrades runner. Comrades is 89km, two Oceans is 56km and in Zimbabwe there is nothing like that,” Muzhingi said.

“The only race I took part in was a 65km race Iron Man sponsored by Harare Athletics Sports Club.

“Companies should also put money in athletics. It took me 17 years to win the Comrades Marathon. That’s when the sport finally rewarded me and that’s why I feel it’s important to have a strong foundation for the upcoming youngsters.”

Despite his accomplishments and determination, Muzhingi remains humble and grounded.

He says this is because of his background of struggle and single-minded pursuit of his goal.

The 38-year-old now wants to help budding young athletes to achieve their dream.

Last week, Muzhingi was part of crowd that attended the launch of the 2018 edition of the JM Busha 54 races which is scheduled for Alex Sports Club on May 25.

This year’s edition will incorporate two other disciplines in golf and cycling.

And while Muzhingi wants to use the meet as a preparatory for the upcoming Comrades Marathon which will come two weeks later, he believes several local long distance runners will have an opportunity to showcase their talent.

Muzhingi has already put plans in motion to invite talented youngsters from his rural home in Chivhu to take part in the meet.

“I am very happy with this development. There was no 54km race in Zimbabwe except Matopos Marathon. I also invited youngsters from my former schools.

“I spoke with their teachers so that these kids can come and stay at my house during the course of the race,” he said.

“It’s about grooming. I think it’s a platform for these young athletes to market themselves out there. So for me taking part in this race is part of motivating these youngsters, some of them want to follow in my footsteps and I’m eager to motivate them.

“I used to travel around the country nurturing talent but when I ran out of finances it ended there. So I now want to take full advantage of the JM Busha to try and make full use of it by bringing a lot of youngsters on board.

“I want these youngsters to avoid the same route I travelled to the top. It was not an easy road for me to reach the levels I reached. I started running when I was a five-year-old boy but I got nothing.

“Sport rewarded me after a very long time, but for these youngsters this is an opportunity for them to start their careers on a firm base.

“It’s now down to them to know that sport is a profession on its own and they can make a living out of it.

“It’s not easy to get to the top. It takes a lot of hard work and also one needs a lot of resources. You need a lot of money to invest in your body and you find it’s difficult in Zimbabwe because there are very few companies who are willing to sponsor sport.”

Muzhingi said it was good that sponsors are now coming on board to support long-distance runners.

“You need sponsorship to be able to compete at the highest level.

“So I believe the coming in of JM Busha is the beginning of good things to come in athletics. I hope more companies will chip in and invest in athletics,” he said.

“I think we need more ultra-marathons like this one which is being organised by Busha. We only have 21km and 42km but now the problem is that an ultra-marathon runner cannot survive.”

Comments (1)

dailynews musanyeberwe namuzhingi south africa haipe citizenship zvekumhanya.akairamba kupi?

g40 - 1 April 2018

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