Tafatatha in Olympic joy

It is rare that we celebrate a moment of brilliance by our athletes. But on Friday morning, blossoming swimmer Joyce Tafatatha gave the nation reason to smile when she broke her personal record to win heat four of the women 50 metres freestyle swimming at the on-going 2012 London Olympic Games.

However, the promising swimmer failed to reach the semi-final of the event.

Competing as one of the youngest athletes at the global showcase, the 14-year-old girl stood up to be counted when she emerged the winner after clocking 27:74 seconds, breaking her personal best record by 0.87 seconds.

She beat her own personal best of 28:61 seconds as well as seven other competitors.

Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) treasurer Jappie Mhango and Malawi Aquatic Union (MAU) president Dean Pinto described the result as extraordinary.

“This is quite unusual. It is amazing and incredible. It is not easy to reduce time. We are excited with her achievement and we wish her the best,” said Mhango.

He said he was not surprised that Tafatatha had improved.

“She demonstrated the right attitude during the camp which Team Malawi had at University of Gloucestershire prior to the Olympic Games,” he said.

In the same event, Blantyre-born Australian Cate Campbell qualified for the semi-finals after clocking 24:94. Campbell also won gold for Australia in the Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.

The qualifying time for the swimming competition is 25:27 seconds while for the 400 metres athletics is 51:55 seconds.

Pinto was also very impressed with Tafatatha’s achievement.

“The challenge for her and swimming is now to knock-off the two seconds to bring her and our swimming to such levels. The programme for the next four years starts now,” said Pinto.

The Malawi team chief de mission at the games Flora Mwandira said in an e-mail on Friday that the athletes have made the country proud.

“Joyce is feeling good to be number one in her heat at her age. She is happy she is an Olympian. Just like Ambwene.

“Like we said before, we did not expect to win medals, but the target was to set new records and that has been achieved. With proper preparations, I have no doubt that they will do even much better at the 2016 games in Brazil,” she said.

Later in the day runner Ambwene Simkonda also beat her own record of 54:32 seconds as she set a new national record in women’s 400 metres after clocking 54:20 seconds to finish fifth in heat five.

However, the new records set by the two girls were not enough to take them to the semi-finals of their respective competitions.

Long distance runner Mike Tebulo will compete in the marathon on August 12, the closing day of the games.

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