The 15th IAAF World Track and Field Championships are well under way at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, taking place from 22-30 August 2015. While all eyes are on the Bolt-Gaitlin 100m showdown, there is Zimbabwean history being made too. On Tuesday (25 August) at 1:30pm local time, a Zimbabwean student, Tatenda Tsumba, will line up on the starting blocks for the 200m heats. Tsumba, a graduate of Eaglesvale High School, is starting his second year on a Division 1 track scholarship at Brigham Young University in Utah. Outside of Tsumba, Zimbabwe’s only other participants are four mature athletes who participated in the marathon on the opening day.
Tsumba enters the 200m race with a Personal Best time of 20.46 (+2 wind) which he achieved on April 25 this year at a university track meet. Legendary Usain Bolt is among those who will be competing in the same 200m heats. Seven years ago, Olympian Brian Dzingai, lined up on the same start line in the Beijing Olympics against Bolt in the 200m final to run a 20.17 (+1 wind) and finish fourth. Dzingai’s achievement has been to date the best sprinting Olympic performance by a Zimbabwean athlete. Dzingai, after St George’s College, studied at Division 2 Truman State University before transferring to Division 1 Florida State University, where he was coached by fellow Zimbabwean Olympian Ken Harden and joined by yet another Zimbabwean Olympian, jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha. Coming off the Olympic track in Beijing, Dzingai quipped that though he may not have won the race, he was the only one out there with a Master’s degree.
Indeed, Zimbabwe has a new field of sprinting talent being cultivated on sports scholarships in the United States. Tinashe Mutanga, also from Eaglesvale High, has just transferred on a Division 1 scholarship from Oral Roberts to track powerhouse Louisiana State University, which produced Zimbabwean athletes Lewis Banda and Gabriel Mvumvure. Mutanga boasts a personal best 100m time of 10.41 and 200m of 21.13. St Ignatius old boy Elton Kativhu shocked Division 3 Goucher College this year when in his first semester he broke a 60m indoor record with a 6.99 time and is also running sub-11 sec 100m races. Michael Songore, renowned sprinter from Peterhouse College, started in January at Western Kentucky University where he is running the gamut of 100m to 800m races and was part of the 400m relay team. His personal bests are 10.71 in the 100m and 21.26 in the 200m.
Several female sprinters are following suit. Ruvarashe Mzinde, of Hillcrest College, who represented Zimbabwe in the 100m and 200m events in 2013 at the 8th IAAF World Youth Championships in Ukraine, has just started at Wingate University in North Carolina on a track scholarship. Mufaro Hungwe, a national sprinter from Arundel School, is starting this month at Dzingai’s home university, Truman State University in Missouri.
Tsumba and his sprinting colleagues studying in the United States may be Zimbabwe’s best prospects for strong track performances in the Rio 2016 Olympics and are definitely paving the way for a new generation of Zimbabwean sprinters. If we can cultivate such potential earlier in high schools, we may be onto developing a new generation of Zimbabwean athletic talent.
Our eyes will be on the track on Tuesday for the 200m heats, but we will be looking beyond Bolt’s race. Tatenda Tsumba, Zimbabwe is supporting you.