|Saturday, 04 August 2012 19:19|
Let’s learn from the Olympics debacleTHERE is no grief like the grief that does not speak, said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular American poet in the 19th century.
Zimbabweans are crestfallen following the departure from the Olympic Games of their medal hopeful, swimmer Kirsty Coventry.
Coventry ended her stay at the Olympics after she came home 6th in the 200m backstroke final that saw American teenager Missy Franklin emerge tops.
Earlier, Kirsty was seventh in the 100m backstroke and sixth in 200m individual medley, efforts that ruled her out of contention for any medal.
Before her valedictory swim last Friday, Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart said, “She has not had a lot of financial support and has been very isolated and only raced two competitive races prior to the London Olympics. So, when you compare that build-up to all her competitors, you will see that what she has achieved is absolutely remarkable’’.
Disadvantaged yes, remarkable no! Coventry’s “failure’’ is a serious indictment to Zimbabwe as a sporting nation. Her fall, coupled with other failures, epitomises the death of the jewel called “sport’’ in this country.
Minister Coltart, since time immemorial we have unleashed our athletes “like lambs led to the slaughter’’, to prestigious events, such as the Olympics, the world championships in athletics, world junior championships and numerous others on the continent, who have gone all the way to embarrass us as a nation while carrying our sacred national flag.
The long and short of it, Minister Coltart, is that we are tired of excuses after failing us. It’s all good to be sympathetic while in foreign lands but is this not what your ministry should have done to facilitate Kirsty. Our performance at those prestigious events has at best been disappointing, but at worst embarrassing.
Visuals of Kirsty on satellite television showed gloom, while the body language of her rivals pointed to preparedness, enthusiasm and hope.
How can we expect athletes to raise our flag high when there is a want for morale, and before participation good training infrastructure coupled with handsome remuneration?
In soccer we have become accustomed to the fact that our team would be defeated. And then we may ask: what message are we communicating and what culture are we inculcating in our children?
Do we have to depend on the likes of Cuthbert Dube (Zifa president) for incentives to our football national teams yet the ministry of sport gets money from Treasury. As a nation we want to know where these financial resources are being use because we can’t depend on the benevolence of individual citizens. If the money is not enough it is the responsibility of the nation to raise it.
There are the traditional annual youth games that are supposed to provide seeds for our national teams, the seeds that are supposed to replace our aging athletes. Are the youth games serving that purpose? The answer is No because since the games’s inception everything has been forgotten immediately the games were over.
But instead we tend to look to towns and townships from the urban setup as the catchment area.
The advice is that Government should put money where its mouth is. But because it is not doing that we are now labelled perennial failures that are known only for such scandals as Asiagate.
It is our fervent hope that after our disastrous outing in London 2012, every effort will be made to fortify our sports development. Strategies, with a view to increasing the depth of our national team player base, and laying the foundation of an even stronger challenge at our next national assignments should be given priority.
Such a review should also examine possible means of enhancing our sports, locally, regionally and internationally.
Just like the National Athletics Associations of Zimbabwe president Joseph Mungwari rightly puts it elsewhere in the sports pages of this paper, let’s invest in building systems that will be effective in producing results for our country.
Asked about her future after the Friday debacle that left her in the cold, Coventry said: “I am going home after this to set up a foundation for sport and youth and I’m going to focus on life after sport.’’
Perhaps she has set the ball rolling for the relevant ministry and other stakeholders to follow suit.