Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
SWIMMING is considered one of the elite sports in the country with only the well up taking up the sport.
While successes scored by Kirsty Coventry as she made a mark on the world stage, scooping medals at the Olympics saw the sport gaining popularity, lack of facilities have seen few getting involved in the sport.
Despite swimming opening up to the majority of Zimbabweans after independence many continue to perceive it as the preserve of whites and the rich.
Recently formed Stingrays Swimming Academy are however, seeking to change those perceptions and open it up to the majority of Zimbabweans.
Chairperson of the Academy, Nokuthula Cyprianos said they want to debunk the myth that has seen few blacks taking up the sport.
She said background mattered little but it was hard work that is of importance if one wanted to succeed in the sport.
“We have a broad vision of bringing more swimmers from previously disadvantaged areas to the sport. There are perceptions that have made the majority view the sport as an elite sport but for us we believe focus and hard work are the only impediments that stand between anyone and success in swimming.
“We have partnered up with two schools in Bulawayo where we train their students, with the hope of identifying talent at grassroots level,” she said.
The academy was registered with the Matabeleland Amateur Swimming Board in June as they sought to create a swimming club with a different focus from Penguins, which they had previously been part of.
They funded the renovations of the pool at Townsend High School which had been lying derelict as authorities struggled to raise funds to fix the pool.
Cyprianos, who recently qualified as a swimming referee, said they are aiming at producing swimmers who will excel not only in the country but also regionally and internationally.
She said sport in general and swimming in particular has scholarship opportunities abroad that can be tapped into by excelling swimmers.
“One can go places with swimming and once a swimmer exhibits great potential they might get scholarships that are being offered in the United States of America. The swimmer will get the opportunity to improve on his talents while also getting a good education.
“We are aiming at sending as many swimmers as possible abroad to ensure their swimming can go to the next level as they will have access to advanced training methods and facilities,” she said.
The academy showed their ability to compete among the best when they emerged fifth overall during the Mutare Sprint Gala that was held a fortnight ago.
They were fourth in the boys’ section while coming eighth in the girls’ category.
Two of their swimmers, Quinton Tayali and Denilson Cyprianos have already made 2018 South African Junior Championships times.
National team swimmer Tayali achieved the SA qualifying time during the Zimbabwe National Youth Games when he clocked one minute 01.36 seconds in the 100m butterfly.
Denilson is proving to be the king of backstroke as he swam 50m in 30.41 seconds at the Mutare Gala, which was the best time in all age groups.
“With Matabeleland Senior Championships coming soon (16 to 19 November), our swimmers are training hard as we are aiming for the top position. Stingrays trains at Townsend High School and in Kumalo over winter. Sting has a total of 25 swimmers at the moment and we are open for more,” said the chairperson.
Coaches at the academy include Edmore Cyprianos, Demi Mooy, Kundai Chigariro and Louise Lee.