Chauke driven by passion to make a difference – The Herald

Chauke driven by passion to make a difference  The Herald

The Herald

Ellina Mhlanga Senior Sports Reporter

IT’S not every day that you meet someone with passion for what they do and their actions are driven by the thought of making a difference in other people’s lives.

One such person is athletics coach Benson Chauke.

Many may remember him as Cuthbert Nyasango’s coach, who helped him become one of the leading long-distance runners to have emerged from this country, finishing seventh at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

However, Chauke has worked with several notable distance runners that include Olivia Chitate, Faith Nyasango, Tendai Zimuto, Jane Makombe and Tendai Chinhano.

Some of them represented the country at various levels, including the World Cross Country Championships.

He also worked with Wirimai Juwawo for the London 2012 Olympics. Juwawo came 15th at the Games.

Early this year he was appointed head of the national event coaches team for middle and long-distance runners. The other members of that team are Cephas Pasipamire, Collen Makaza, Cuthbert Nyasango and Zibusiso Nyoni.

For Chauke it is the drive to make a difference in other people’s lives and passion for athletics from a young age that saw him getting involved in the sport.

His first major encounter in coaching was at Chekai Secondary School in Masvingo. He joined the school in 1987, having graduated from Gweru Teachers’ College in 1986.

He used athletics as a source of empowering children from disadvantaged backgrounds but were talented in athletics.

“I went to a small school called Chekai Secondary School under Chief Shumba, in Masvingo. There were kids that had potential. During that time there were Dairibord Cross Country Championships that were held for High Schools.

“I saw an opportunity for children that were coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. That desire to help such kids to develop their talent and be able to probably earn money and be able to pay for their school fees was part of the drive that I had,” said Chauke.

Chauke then transferred to Kuwadzana High School in 1991 where he was appointed a house master. It was at the school that he identified athletes that include Nyasango, Chitate, Faith Kamangila and Makombe, among others.

“From then on I started identifying kids, with more exposure, now identifying coaching courses by Harare Athletics Board. The SRC was doing some courses for administration, sport for all, coaching, so new ideas were coming up,” said Chauke.

Chauke as head of the national event coaches team for middle and long-distance runners was involved in the national camps that were held for distance runners, including those that were seeking qualification to the World Championships.

From the group, Isaac Mpofu managed to qualify and he finished 10th at the meet, setting a new national record in the process.

They are also expected to assist athletes qualify for Paris 2024 Olympic Games and Chauke believes they are on the right track, considering Mpofu’s performance at the World Championships.

“We have the joy that this thing came out well. What the association was doing to identify us, put together the camp working with ZOC, it has really helped make everyone see that this is doable, this is the right direction.

“But what is left now, probably, are modalities to say how can they source for funds, mobilise funds so that when people focus on this they don’t worry about other things,” said Chauke.

Chauke holds a certificate in athletics basic coaching Level One, coaches course certificate Level One (IAAF) and an international coaches diploma in athletics, he attained in 2001 in Hungary.

Apart from his qualifications, Chauke, a teacher by profession, says consulting and working with others that have the experience did help him and his athletes along the way.

Among the people who had an influence on his coaching career is retired long-distance runner Tendai Chimusasa, whom he used to consult when he was at Kuwadzana High School.

Chauke took an interest in athletics from an early age while in Chiredzi where he was doing his primary school education and throughout his High School days at Dadaya High School.

“My journey in sport I think it started because of where I stayed. Initially I stayed in the rural areas, in Masvingo, Mwenezi. Having grown up there, the rural boy then moved to Chiredzi, Hippo Valley Estates, in the early 70s.

“Hippo Valley had one long-distance runner called John Tongoluweto.  I would admire him training. My elder brother was involved in athletics.

“At Dadaya I was never a part of the people who were best runners but I had interest,” said Chauke.

Chauke admitted that while he would want a podium finish for his athletes, seeing them changing their lives for the better through their talent is most satisfying.

Nyasango paid tribute to Chauke for shaping his career as well as his life off the field of competition.

“I met coach Chauke at Kuwadzana High School when I was still doing my Form Three and then from there, the relationship grew to a coach, mentor, a father, a motivator and a friend to the extent that he played a fatherly role in my life because my father passed away when I was still in Grade Five, so his role in my life was very crucial and very important one that shaped my life.

“When I wanted to stop studying he was there to say this is a wrong decision… He was there to educate us about how to invest, how to build relationships, so to me his impact is immeasurable,” said Nyasango.

NAAZ president, Tendayi Tagara, said he is happy to see positive results from the recent assignment.

“I believe in team work. We set down as an executive and asked head coach Lisimati (Phakamile) to appoint top middle and long-distance runners (coaches) to come up with a programme that will make sure we have marathon runners that qualify to Oregon.

“They set as a team for camps and produced positive results. The impact of the team is there to see. I am happy Chauke worked with Cuthbert, now he is working with Mpofu and the team,” said Tagara.