ATHLETICS coach Cephas Pasipamire says they are making encouraging progress with the long-distance runners earmarked for qualification to the Olympic Games.
Pasipamire is working with a number of the athletes and although they have sent some home to work on individual programmes, the coach is pleased they are managing to continue with their training.
He is also hopeful some of the athletes may be able to have their first attempt on qualification between next month and March if all goes well as they are making frantic efforts to find races as early as possible.
“We are managing to train. The challenge is races but from the look of things Isaac Mpofu and Ngonidzashe Ncube are likely to run in mid-February. Then Misheck Sithole, we were together in Vumba, we gave him a programme and he is training in Marondera, his race is in March.
“Mpofu and Ncube I have them at Morris Depot, we train every day. So we thought that if we retain all of the athletes we had in camp we may have problems, so the rest we gave them programmes to work with at home and we meet on Mondays to assess their progress in terms of fitness,” said Pasipamire.
Ncube and Mpofu, who are from Bulawayo, moved to Harare after a two-week camp in Vumba last month so that they continue with their training under the guidance of Pasipamire and Collen Makaza, who were appointed to assist the long-distance runners.
It is one area local athletes have done well when it comes to qualification for the Olympic Games and in the past two editions Zimbabwe have had a number of long-distance runners making the times to the Olympics.
“At least we are managing under the difficult circumstances. The challenge is when we want to work on speed work because of the rains it gets muddy so we have to improvise and use the road but track is ideal when doing speed work.
“So I can say since the Vumba camp we have not stopped our training and it has been going well despite the few challenges, including a slight knock on Ncube, but he is back in training and from the medical assessments made he is okay.
“So I hope they can run in February and I am optimistic they can qualify. If they fail at least there is time for a second chance,” Pasipamire said.
Veteran long-distance runner Abel Chimukoko urged the athletes to be patient and remain focused.
“What I can say to the athletes is that they just need to be patient. Like now the situation we are living in is not conducive, it’s abnormal but they have to be patient.
“Athletes are being affected, some had earmarked to qualify in races in Europe and they are being cancelled . . . To fellow athletes I say keep on training, just focus on training. Athletics, being an individual sport, they have an opportunity to train alone.
“Some of the athletes have already been disheartened because of the lockdown and so on but our athletes need to focus more on their training. We have quite a short period for qualifying, but we still have time if they remain focused,” said Chimukoko.
Chimukoko is also the ZRP staff officer for sport, and some of their athletes such as Mpofu, Ncube and Ethel Sibanda are among the Olympic hopefuls. He has been engaging some of them just to encourage them.
“Psychologically they are ready because we have been talking to them. In terms of training it has been internal, Morris Depot has got the facilities they need and they have been training under the Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines,” said Chimukoko.
Other athletes that are in the running for the qualification for the Olympics are Rutendo Nyahora and Fortunate Chidzivo.