By Lawrence Trusida, Sport Editor
ZIMBABWE’S 2024 Olympic hopefuls have been given a head start after getting scholarships from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Olympic Solidarity Scholarship has come in handy for 10 Zimbabwean athletes who include swimmers Donata Katai, Denilson Cyprianos, and Nomvula Mjimba.
Katai is a sure bet after competing at the last Olympics, while Mjimba is touted as the next big thing after captaining team Zimbabwe at the recently concluded CANA Zone IV championships, where she scooped six medals, two gold, three silver and a bronze.
The others are long distance athletes Isaac Mpofu and Fortunate Chidzivo, who has just won the Comrades Half Marathon in South Africa as well as triple jumper and African Champion, Chengetayi Mapaya.
18-year-old judoka, Christ-Rose Pretorius who won a silver medal at the youth Olympics in 2018, also makes the cut alongside rower, Stephen Cox and 18-year-old triathlete, Andie Kuipers.
After receiving the scholarships at a function held in Harare this Monday evening at French Residence, the athletes believe the support will improve their performances.
“Now I can focus on my swimming without worrying about a lot in terms of diet and even money to participate in other competitions,” said Katai.
“I missed the last Olympics because I lacked a few things like scientific exams, but now this is possible because I am being funded,” said Chidzivo.
Africa’s most decorated Olympian, Honourable Kirsty Coventry, who is also the Minster of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, believes the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee is hitting the right codes in selecting six athletes who are under the age of 20.
“This is the way to go. Get them at their peak and push them to reach potential rather than award scholarships to athletes who are past their prime,” she said.
With three athletes having qualified and two more getting wild card entry to the last Olympics, ZOC is hopeful of sending at least 10 individual sport athletes and one team sport to Paris 2024.