The National Senior Swimming Championships have showcased a field of strong swimmers across the board, but with a few stand out national swimmers who consistently have won most or all the races in their age groups by significant margins. Zimbabwe’s top junior swimmers, without much age group competition here at home, have to push themselves to make increasingly faster times each year ahead of the South African Swimming Championships in March where the competition is of a completely different level.
Swimming sensation and 2014 SSN Player of the Year Ratidzo Mutangadura, a Lower Sixth student at Chisipite, celebrated her 17th birthday on Saturday while captaining the Mashonaland side and achieving two personal best times. Mutangadura won gold so far in every event she swam on Friday and Saturday. She swam the 100m butterfly in 107.79 with Sarah Hawgood of Arundel achieving silver with a time of 1:14:45 and the 200m back in 2.36.08, with Peterhouse’s Lorna Doorman coming in second with a time of 2:42.57. Mutangadura won the 200 free in 2:17.74, five seconds before second place Hawgood and the 50m back in 32:14.
The 17&Over girls is one of Zimbabwe’s strongest age groups for swimmers with Mutangadura, Hawgood and Doorman consistently competitive swimmers. Whereas Mutangadura is focusing increasingly on sprints in the pool, in backstroke, butterfly and freestyle, her teammate Hawgood is specialising on long distance and open water races. Hawgood comfortably won the 400m free on Thursday in 4:55.19, 30 seconds before second place winner Doorman who finished in 5:14.85 Doorman won gold in her favoured 100m breaststroke in 1:27.34.
James Lawson, formerly of St George’s College, flew in for the Championships from the Tuks High Performance Center in Pretoria, where he is training under Olympic Solidarity funds with an eye to qualify to raise the Zimbabwean flag at the Rio Olympics next year. Lawson easily strode to victory in his opening 400m freestyle race on Thursday with an impressive time of 4:22:87, more than 20 seconds ahead of second place finisher Liam Burnett from St John’s College. Lawson did not compete in most races on Friday and Saturday.
Hometown Bulawayo boy Brendan Cyprianos of Christian Brothers College dominated the Men’s 17&Over category, winning gold in the 100m freestyle in a time of 56:20 and the 100m fly in 103.72 Cyprianos, disappointingly, was disqualified in the 200m back final , where he had come second in the heats, allowing Dylan Steyl and unexpected gold.
Liam Davis of St John’s College dominated most Men’s 15-16 races. In the younger boys races, Dylan Huang of St George’s consistently racked up gold medals with excellent times for his U12 age group such as 2:31.01 in the U12 200m free and 35:86 in the U12 50m back.
The effort that Dominican Convent School in Harare, under Zimbabwe Olympic Committee Member Kathy Lobb, has put into the development of swimming in the past six years has paid off. Convent has identified its top swimming girls at young ages and encouraged parents to put them into club swimming after soon, moving from coming last once upon a time in swimming galas to consistently winning the events now. Convent swimmers Nyasha Mukonoweshuro and Nomvula Mjimba have made impressive showings as this championship, with Mjimba winning the 13-14 400m free and the two winning both the 100m and 200m freestyle races in their respective age groups.