For the umpteenth, Malawi athletes have returned empty-handed from the Commonwealth Games after the country’s seven runners failed to pluck a single medal as they completed their participation in the 2018 edition in Gold Coast, Australia on Sunday.
Malawi has not finished within the medal winning bracket at the games since 1986 and the latest flag-carriers Happy Ndacha Mcherenje, Kephas Kasiteni Chitsala, Grevazio Mpani, Chancy Master, Benedicto Makumba, Golden Gunde and Dalitso Gunde have kept alive that unimpressive legacy.
Mcherenje, who was Malawi’s last hope, on Sunday was the last out of the 17 runners that completed a full marathon run (42.195km) in 2.45:30 hours while Chitsala finished on position 12 out of 17 in 10 000m race with finish time of 29.21:68 minutes.
In 5 000m race, Grevazio Mpani and Master were number nine and 14, respectively, out of 15 contestants. Mpani crossed the finish line in 14.30 minutes whereas Master did it in 14.50 minutes. Makumba failed to cross the heat stage in 800m contest as Golden and Dalitso Gunde did the same in 400m event.
At the games, the seven athletes represented the country alongside the Malawi national netball team, which settled for a seventh-place finish.
The development means that Malawi still holds the three bronze medals in boxing that Tatu Ghionga, Lyton Mphande and Solomon Kondowe won over 30 years ago. Ghionga was the first to win a medal in 1970 before Mphande and Kondowe followed in 1986. Since Malawi’s first participation in 1970, 13 Commonwealth Games’ editions have been conducted.
Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) general secretary Frank Chitembeya attributed the latest underachievement to poor preparations due to financial constraints.
“All athletes are good and can win medals with good time preparations. We lack enough financial resources to groom the athletes into world-class runners. Well-wishers should come in and assist us,” he said.
“Our annual subvention stands at K1.7 million and that is peanuts as compared to what needs to be invested in our team to get good results at prestigious international events. A coach cannot mould athletes in just a week unless they are professionals. With haphazard preparations, we can even go another 100 years without winning a medal.”
According to Chitembeya, Malawi’s ambassadors had only a week-long camping before travelling to Australia while all their counterparts had been preparing for the games for over a year.
Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) president Oscar Kanjala and general secretary Jappie Mhango could not be reached for their comment yesterday. Kanjala was yet to respond to a WhatsApp questionnaire at press time.