Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
THE father of the nine-year-old athlete that competed in the Matopos PPC 33 Miler believes his son is talented and nothing should stop him from competing in long distance running.
Brian Makamu said he has worked hard to realise his dream of producing a top athlete for the country and would not be stopping now.
He said his son Obey (9) started running at the age of three and engaged in competitive races at six when he competed in a cross country meet held in Bulawayo’s Nketa Park.
National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (Naaz) last week likened Obey’s participation in the 53km ultra-marathon as gross abuse of the minor. Makamu, however, challenged the authorities to bring proof of the negative effects that might befall the boy saying he was not aware of any.
“I have no intention of stopping the boy from realising his dream of being the youngest athlete to complete the Comrades ultra-marathon. He has set his sights on achieving that dream and I am determined to assist him reach it. The boy is simply out of this world. I can’t take him and compare him with other young children, he is exceptional. I discovered his interest in running at a tender age and made it my aim to nurture it and allow it to blossom and not stifle it,” he said.
Makamu said when Obey first burst into the scene three years ago at the cross country event he was warned that after two years he would experience burnout and would be out of the track in two years but it was the opposite instead as the boy had improved.
Obey has completed 10km races that include Nkulumane Fun Run, Beitbridge Mayor’s Half Marathon, Old Mutual Westgate Half Marathon and Liquor Hub Fun Run.
Naaz president Tendai Tagara condemned the participation of the youngster saying athletes below the age of 16 cannot compete in more than 10km in order to protect their growth and physiology. Makamu felt Naaz should be referring the boy to an academy that would nurture and develop his talent. He said there should be a talent development programme in place to groom future stars and the lack of such a plan forced him to come up with his own.
“If you look at the histories of top athletes you will realise they started at a young age, talk about the Black brothers who remain the country’s best tennis athletes, Olympic gold medalist swimmer, Kirsty Coventry, golfer Tiger Woods.
“If you go to Brazil today you will find six-year-old footballers already in academies and some of their technical abilities, passing and ball control, is much better than what we are seeing in our Premier Soccer League. Why doesn’t Naaz come up with an academy to nurture talent at a tender age instead of discouraging it? At that academy they can then apply the proper standards. We need to focus on developing future stars but no one is doing that,” said Makamu.
However, a paper written by National University of Science and Technology Sports Science Department, Bhekuzulu Khumalo on burnout reveals increased incidence of burnout in athletes who start at a tender age.
He asserts that several studies have suggested that athletes who had early specialised training withdrew from their sport either due to injury or burnout. Burnout is when an athlete withdraws from a sport because of physical and mental exhaustion.