Current national under 20 girls double champion in the 100 and 200 metres events Tsitsi Mahachi talks to FrontrowZim. She tells us about her experiences in Lille, France at the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships as well as how she got involved in athletics. Tsitsi who is the vice-captain for the Chisipite Girls athletics team also speaks about her love for soccer and shares her thoughts on the state of Zimbabwe athletics.
FrontrowZim: Tell me about Tsitsi, athletics and soccer.
Tsitsi: I really enjoy athletics and I never thought I would achieve all I have achieved now in the sport because I only started taking it seriously in form four. The way I qualified to go to France – my first ever international competition – was amazing, I hadn’t even done provincials. I qualified at inter-schools. As for soccer it’s a sport that is really close to my heart, I really like soccer and I think it’s because soccer is a group sport so you get to connect with the team and you feel like a family.
FrontrowZim: You mentioned France, tell me about the whole French experience.
Tsitsi: France was an eye opener for me, because I had never been to such a big competition in my life so I did not know what to expect. I thought I would be on the podium but you know I wasn’t close, I couldn’t even smell the podium from where I was. But I really enjoyed myself and now I know what’s out there and what to expect. It was a big motivation.
FrontrowZim: And the timing, I like to call it the “curse of the hand”. Your timing here was all done by hand and when you went to France it was all electronic, how did that work for you?
Tsitsi: Well I actually thought I would post a better time as electronic timing is precise but I was wrong. It was like a huge smack in the face.
FrontrowZim: Tsitsi for how long have you been sprinting with the sole intention of getting there first?
Tsitsi: It’s been a while. I remember running with my sister in the driveway, she would always come first and it used to get to me but it kept me motivated. I always said to myself “Only one day.”
FrontrowZim: Did that day ever come?
Tsitsi: Oh yes it did. I’m faster than her now.
FrontrowZim: Earlier you said that you only started taking athletics seriously when you were in form four. How did you get more involved?
Tsitsi: I used to play soccer and tennis only but tennis was not for me really so I decided to try something new and found out that I was actually achieving more in athletics so I stuck with it.
FrontrowZim: There are always some challenges involved in taking up anything new. What would you say has been your greatest challenge to date?
Tsitsi: That would be my fear of losing. Honestly I would not want to do a race knowing I am going to come third. I remember crying if I came second and people would tell me I did well but that was not well for me.
FrontrowZim: So I guess there has not been a lot of crying this year?
Tsitsi: Fortunately yes, no crying this year.
FrontrowZim: You put on superb performances at the National Sports Stadium a few weeks back. What do you have to say about that?
Tsitsi: I think it’s all God’s grace because I actually prayed to God that this year would be my year and I’m just hoping I have good enough times to qualify for the Africa Junior Championships.
FrontrowZim: I have watched you run before and you look so relaxed. You just go forward, but is there any such thing as an easy race?
Tsitsi: Never! There is never an easy race especially for me because I have a slow start so everyone will be ahead of me for the first 20 or so metres and I have to catch-up. That is never easy, I always have to dig dip.
FrontrowZim: What would you say has been your greatest achievement to date?
Tsitsi: That would be when I came second in Gwanda. It was my first national competition, yes I came second in my 100 and 200 metres events but I was ahead of this girl who always used to beat me. It was such a motivation and I was really proud of myself.
FrontrowZim: Short and long term goals Tsitsi?
Tsitsi: Well at the top of the list now is to qualify for the All Africa Junior Championships and in the long term I’m hoping to get a scholarship to the United States. If it works out I will probably be a professional athlete if not athletics will still be a part of me.
FrontrowZim: How does it make you feel to have guys like Brian Dzingai look at you and tell you that you have potential, giving you tips here and there. He is the best we’ve seen so far, competed in the 2008 Olympic final against greats like Usain Bolt but you don’t have to talk to him through his agent. What is the feeling like?
Tsitsi: To be honest I am really honored. I am really happy that I get the opportunity to communicate with him. He is a celebrity. He has achieved so much in his life both on and off the track, just being around him drives me to want to achieve more. He is a role model for most young Zimbabwean athletes. I am thankful for every moment I get to talk to him, tell him about my times and all.
FrontrowZim: Speaking of role models, who is your role model?
Tsitsi: I don’t think I actually have any because I drive myself. I really want to be different, to be me but when it comes to people that I look up to Usain Bolt has to be one of them. I go on Google to find out what he eats before his race and I eat as well. From home it has to be Brian.
FrontrowZim: There has been a lot of trash talk about Zimbabwean Athletics. What’s your say on that?
Tsitsi: I personally think that for a third world country we will get better with time and people shouldn’t give up. It starts with you, you have to be positive. Negativity will never get you anywhere.
FrontrowZim: Finally, your take on discipline in schools sport?
Tsitsi: Well I think generally the discipline in our schools sport is good enough. You have a few bad apples here and there but overall we are driven towards our goals. We really know what we want to achieve.