It is sometime in August of the year 2016, winter has just come to an end but the winds are picking up. Instead of deterring sport loving Zimbabweans from waking up in the wee hours of the morning, the ever innovative Zimbabweans use the winds as their alarm clocks. Lights slowly begin to flicker into life. Marondera and everyone else is awake. Some brew coffee while some wash their faces to awaken the senses. Eyes are glued to television sets, others stare at their phones, tablets and laptops, hoping to stay in the know via their social networks. Yes it’s Rio 2016. The Olympics. But why so much interest from Zimbabwe?
In a few moments the Marondera-born, Michael Songore will be walking on to the track. In Rio he does not need an assistant to carry his starting-blocks, everything is set. All he has to do is make his dream come true.
Okay I need to stop. Time traveling is never recommended for anyone especially sports writers so I’ll come back to 2013. Nonetheless I’m confident that anyone who has followed Michael’s journey so far will agree with me that I’m not far off in my predictions of his future.
|D.O.B: 14 August 1996
Birthplace: Borrowdaile Hospital, Marondera
Primary School: Springvale House
High School: Peterhouse
Events: 100m, 200m, 400m
Siblings: Two younger sisters(Athletes too)
I have seen a number of great student athletes before. I even went to school with some of them. A number are enjoying full-ride athletic scholarships in the U.S.A at the moment. What I had not witnessed before is anyone of them breaking three sprint records, all in a day. These are the kind of things you only read about on Jamaican athletic blogs but blessed I was, to witness Michael perform this incredible feat.
At this year’s St George’s College athletics meet, Michael ran the 100 metres, 200 metres and 400 metres events, all in record time. A record-time in his first event of the day, was expected based on his current form but given the energy and strength it takes to do sprints I never expected record times in the following 400 metres and 200 metres events as well. My expectations were debunked, the boy went for the records and he got them, comfortably it seemed from where I was sitting trying to multi-task – jot down some notes, watch the races as well as try to block out the loud cheers so I could work. If these races had been run on separate days maybe he would have smashed the previous records by bigger margins. I can only guess.
One of the cheers I had tried to block earlier was from Michael’s mother as I learnt later. After having a word with her it became clear that Mrs Songore is very supportive of her son and judging by the way she has all the details about his races, I could call her Michael’s manager. She has done a good job of that since Michael’s early days at Springvale House, she says, “He has his sights set on the IAAF Youth Championships that are taking place in Ukraine this July, but we will see how he performs at the nationals.” Zimbabwe won’t have to wake up for this one since we share the same time zone with Ukraine but it will be a real thrill to see Michael reach out for his dreams.
I stalk the boy for the rest of the day and I’m impressed by the cool head he keeps despite being the man of the moment. A very humble Petrean he is. I’m not much older than him or at least I like to believe that I look young but Michael still addresses me as “Sir” even over the phone. He tells me about his dreams of taking part at the next Olympics. “Yes!” he says with great confidence, “I’m sure I can bring my time down for the next Olympic qualifiers. I want to win an Olympic medal for Zimbabwe.” Despite having a personal best of 10.5 seconds in the 100 metre dash at 16 years old, Michael says he wants to focus on the 200 metres and 400 metres events. “I took part in the Southern Regions last year and won bronze in the 200 metres event. It was tough because of my age, I was competing against 19 year-olds.”
A lot of discipline and will power is what drives the Peterhouse speedster to go forward. “When I’m training and I feel like giving up I just ask myself, “How bad do you want it?” and that question keeps me going. My mom is such a motivation. After all the things she has sacrificed for me I want to be able to pay her back. Give her something to smile about.”
I know I did say time travelling is not recommended but I can’t help it, this young man’s future looks bright if he keeps asking himself that question, “How bad do you want it?”
Eyes are now off the television sets and a joyful noise feels the streets of Michael’s home town, Marondera. It’s a celebration. The awards procession goes on and with suppressed excitement Mrs Songore stares at the huge screen mounted inside the magnificent Estádio do Maracanã at the centre of Rio De Janeiro. The Zimbabwean national anthem is played and our flag performs a beautiful dance in the air as if to celebrate the medals . One of the three figures on the podium is Michael’s. It’s a dream come true.
Fun Fact: The qualifying standard for 100 metre dash at the IAAF Youth Championships is 10.9 seconds(hand-time) while the Michael’s personal best sits at 10.5 seconds for now. The world record at this age group(Under 17) is 10.31 seconds. Could this be what Songore is going for?
By Chenjerai Katanda