No ‘tourists’ to Commonwealth Games

Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) has said only athletes who meet qualifying standards will compete at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Queensland, Australia.

The local Olympic body’s president Oscar Kanjala told Nation on Sunday in an interview on Thursday that it cannot be business as usual and time for ‘tourists’ is over’.

Queens celebrate a win at the previous Games

He said for that reason, the country will be represented by “much fewer athletes than before”.

Kanjala also said with less than three months before the start of the games, MOC has not yet decided on which disciplines will carry Malawi’s flag.

The event will be held from April 4 to 15.

“We are yet to make a determination for two reasons. First, some of them [apart from netball] require qualification and using the same standards, we must take only those that have potential to win medals other than just participating.

“Secondly, we have a five-year strategic plan in which we are targeting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so we started a high

performance programme (HPP) aimed at instilling the culture of fighting for qualification,” he said.

Asked if the delay to identify the codes will not affect preparations for the games, the MOC boss said: “We are not 100 percent responsible for athletes’ preparations, that is the responsibility of their respective associations.

“The mistake that people or associations make is that MOC is sorely responsible for such events. The associations, under which the athletes fall, are aware of these programmes and they are supposed to plan for them.

“There is only a specific period in which we come in and that is when we are approaching the games just to polish up from where they [associations] stopped. Most of the groundwork is supposed to be done by them.

“So, even if we announce the participating codes late, it should not affect preparations because associations do not stop their operations,” he said.

Only Queens are assured of participation by virtue of their continental and world rankings. They are ranked second in Africa and sixth in the world.

Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Khungekile Matiya said an executive committee meeting which was slated for yesterday (Saturday), was expected to determine when the team would regroup.

“We had a preliminary meeting on Monday [with MOC] where we were advised of the requirements. So, we will submit our programme and budget to MOC.

“But the Three Test series against England were part of our preparations for the Commonwealth Games, so on our part we are doing something,” she said.

Matiya also said plans are under way to seek the release of foreign-based players—Mwawi Kumwenda and Joyce Mvula—from their respective Australian and English clubs in good time.

The Queens are in Group B alongside International Netball Federation (INF) top three ranked sides New Zealand and England.

The Queens’ other group opponents are Wales Scotland and Uganda while Group A has Australia, Jamaica, South Africa, Barbados, Fiji and Northern Ireland.

After seven days of group matches, the best two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals.

Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) general secretary (GS) Frank Chitembeya said they have lined up regional and national cross country competitions to identify possible representatives.

“We will have the regional cross country later this month and then the national one on February 13 and those that will make the grade will be camping regularly and we plan to send them for the Africa Championship in March and other tournaments in South Africa which will act as their final tests,” he said.

Chitembeya cited Golden Gunde, Kefasi Kasteni, Khumbo Makwakwa and Happy Mcherenje as some of the athletes who have the potential to meet the qualifying times.

However, the AAM GS painted a gloomy picture, saying lack of funds could be their stumbling block as they only have K1.5 million out of the budgeted K10.5 million.

“On our own, that is what we have and we are banking on other stakeholders such as government and MOC to hold our hands and assist towards the cause,” he said.

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