Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
TEAM Zimbabwe tennis coach Martin Dzuwa wants his side to soldier on and put on a strong fight for medals despite losing two key players — brothers — Benjamin and Courtney Lock — for the African Games in Congo Brazzaville. Benjamin and Courtney were last month ruled out of the Games because of College commitments in the United States, which came as a blow for the team.
The 11th African Games will burst into life tomorrow after today’s official opening ceremony and will end on September 19 with Africa’s top athletes competing in 22 sporting disciplines. It is also the 50th anniversary of the Games since they began in Brazzaville in 1965. Members of Team Zimbabwe are travelling in batches on commercial flights with gymnastics and the football squads having already arrived in Brazzaville.
Dzuwa’s men will leave on Monday with Rufaro Chirewa being the only player, who is locally based and will be travelling with the coach and manager Linsent Chitiyo. The other four players — Takanyi Garanganga, Mark Fynn, Valeria Bhunu and Pauline Chawafambira will be flying to Congo directly from their respective basis as they have been competing in various tournaments across the world.
Dzuwa said although his team is looking good they would have wanted the United States-based brothers to be part of the team to strengthen their medal chances. “For me I was very disappointed especially for Courtney because I was expecting him to do very well. He did very well during the Davis Cup and the Futures tournaments but I understand his situation.
“It would have increased the chances for medals and it would have been good to have all the players. But I think we will manage,” said Dzuwa. Dzuwa noted that they are expecting a tough competition ahead of them but is hopeful they will do well. “It’s going to be tough and I think it also really depends with the other teams. The guys have been doing well.
“For the boys I am okay because that’s the Davis Cup team and for the girls I have worked with them before — Valeria and Pauline so I know them. We will also have three days of practice before the tournament (in Congo Brazzaville), so I am looking forward to it. I have been there before as a player but as a coach it’s my first time but I think the experience is the same,” said Dzuwa.
The athletics team will also be travelling next week and their manager for men, Taitos Madzingo said they are pinning their hopes on sprinters Rodwell Ndlovu and Francis Zimwara as well as decathlete Keegan Cooke to win some medals for the country. The team is made up of seven athletes. “We have got four boys, so far I think they have prepared so well that we are looking forward to performing well and representing our country Zimbabwe. “We have got one guy in South Africa Francis, we have Rodwell and we have got Cooke, those are the athletes we have high hopes on that they will achieve. Our boys’ spirits are very high such that they might turn the tables in terms of athletics.
“These athletes know each other, they have competed against each other and they have met in several competitions across Africa as a continent and even beyond Africa. They know each other, they know how much effort they have put in their training and how much they are going to challenge each other,” said Madzingo. Zimbabwe will also be fielding athletes in athletics, beach volleyball, cycling, gymnastics, judo, karate, taekwondo, swimming and sports for the disabled.