In 2018, Malawi’s minority sports disciplines did their best to achieve something extraordinary in their respective fields although some failed to make successful attempts.
Chess was one of the outstanding disciplines as Chiletso Chipanga defied all odds to win Africa Amateur Chess Championship in Zambia in March and become the country’s first chess player to take gold at continental level.
And he did it in style by winning all his eight games to outclass a field of 45 contestants, including the competition’s favourites such as Zimbabwean chess king Dhemba Jemuse.
Immediate past Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) president Kezzie Msukwa could not hold his breath after the success: “I was delighted to see my player receiving a gold medal this evening, having waited for over 14 years. So sweet! Congratulations, Chilly Chipanga. You have changed our CV.”
And to further prove his mettle, he went on to settle for an impressive sixth position out of 49 contestants at the nine-round World Amateur Chess Championship in Italy. At the global event, the Candidate Master amassed six points, just a single point behind the eventual winner Singh Arvider Preet of Indonesia, whom he beat in the fifth round.
And he wrapped up the year in extraordinary fashion as he defended the National Chess Championship with an unbeaten run after winning six games and recording three draws at Cross Roads Hotel in Lilongwe on December 22.
In the year, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Malawi, formed in November 2017 with 11 members and eight golf professionals, got into business with the hosting of the inaugural Warm Heart Pro-Tour at Lilongwe Golf Club (LGC) in October with over 70 golfers, including over 60 foreign participants from across Africa.
With $7 000 (about K5.1 million) and $6 000 (about K4.4 million) up for grabs for the winner and runner-up, respectively, Malawi’s flag carriers Paul Chidale, Adam Sailesi, Victor Kachepatsonga, Kondwani Mphula, Gabriel Kambalame and PGA-Malawi interim president Partridge Shycal assembled their arsenal to make the first impression in the contest but the foreign contingent proved a tough nut to crack.
The tournament saw Zimbabwean Tranes Muradzikwa emerging victorious followed by Kenyan Dismasi Indiza and Zambian Sydney Wemba on runner-up and third positions, respectively.
Malawians failed to make a mark even in the top 15 bracket as Chidale was the best performer after finishing 16th with a 299 score. Sailesi and Kachepatsonga took positions 18 and 19, in that order.
Basketball was another discipline that was determined to attain glory on the international stage as Bravehearts Men and Ladies’ teams plus Central Knights took part in the 2018 International Basketball Federation (Fiba) Africa Club Championship qualifiers in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
This was the first time Malawian clubs were taking part in an invent sanctioned by the world basketball governing body Fiba and Bravehearts Ladies narrowly missed qualification into Africa Fiba Championship finals. They could have been among the top two teams that made the grade, but inferior basket difference betrayed them after scooping the third position.
Bravehearts Men finished on fifth position after beating Harare City Hornets (Zimbabwe) 65-64 fifth-place battle while Central Knights were on seventh place.
Another narrow miss for Malawi sports came in July when International Master (IM) Enock Makoka Banda saw the African Draughts-64 Championship title and the Grandmaster (GM) status going to Zambian Lukanga Mambwe. They tied on points but Mambwe nailed it after a tie-breaking system separated them in the classic division.
Nevertheless, Makoka Banda found solace in taking the ultimate glory in the rapid division.
Generally, the year was harvest time for some outstanding local sports administrators as they were trusted with positions in international bodies.
Association of Draughts (Adma) general secretary Suzgo Nkhoma was elected president of African Draughts Federation (ADF) and vice-president of International Draughts Federation (IDF) while Msukwa and Malawi Paralympics Committee (MPC) boss James Chiutsi were elected Africa Chess Confederation (ACC) general secretary and International Paralympics Committee (IPC) education committee member, respectively.