Lost hope

Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) and Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) have said there is little hope for the country to produce the first-ever qualified athlete for Olympic Games in Japan scheduled for July.

This follows the failure of three boxers to make the grade at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualifiers held in Dakar, Senegal last weekend.

Welterweight boxer Snowden Munyanje lost to Zambian Steven Zimba, Harvey Nkacha (lightweight) fell to Zimbabwean Denis Brandon while Yamikani Mtambo (featherweight) lost to Ghanaian Yekuit Samuel.

The Malawi national women’s football team was booted out by Kenya in the qualifiers

 The latest development leaves judo, which is expected to compete in the qualifiers in Morocco in May, as the country’s last hope for qualification. Malawi also has an outside chance in athletics whose qualifiers run up to April.

For over four decades, local athletes have been failing to make the Olympic Games grade through qualification. The country’s flag-carriers in the prestigious global event have been participating on solidarity.

MOC vice-president Flora Mwandira admitted in an interview yesterday that the boxers’ failure has hit the committee hard as they were the country’s realistic hope.

However, the MOC veep said they did their best to help associations with technical and financial support in a bid to produce a qualified athlete.

“Those were the last Olympic qualifiers for boxing but they have failed to make it. As MOC, we tried our best to support associations such as judo, archery, athletics and football by offering special training programmes,” she said.

On his part, MNCS acting executive secretary Henry Mereka described the situation as sad for the country, “considering that associations enter competitions to do well”.

He said: “This is bad for us because we had hopes in them [boxers] and the other sport codes as our plans are always to qualify athletes for these competitions. We have to go back to the drawing board and follow the correct principles of sport so as to get it right.”

In an interview yesterday, boxing coach Andy Muyaya said despite the defeats, the boxers put up a gallant fight as they lost on points.

“I am impressed with the boxers because they  lost after giving out their best, especially Nkacha who was congratulated by his opponent,” he said.

Malawi Boxing Association president Pyson Likagwa said  lack of support affected the boxers.

“The losses on points show that we can do well if well supported. We need sponsorship for tournaments at regional and national levels to expose our boxers,” he said.

Likagwa also said lack of proper equipment such as standard rings, gloves, punching bags and skipping ropes has taken a toll on their performance.

South Africa-based Malawian boxing trainer Andson Kazembe said the boxers should be exposed to high-level training and competitions in preparation for such games.

“Failure at the Senegal qualifiers is bad news for Malawi. The underlining problem could be talent identification, development and nurturing and exposing the identified talent. Did the boxers train at high level for years, camp together?” he said.

Athletics Association of Malawi general secretary Frank Chitembeya said the country has athletes with potential to do well, but they are not well supported.

“Our athletes have always done well whenever they have a chance to participate at international games, but with inadequate funding from government and the corporate world, how can they achieve that?” he said.

Malawi women’s football team, Under-23 national football team, lawn tennis, athletics, judo, archery and swimming were earmarked for Olympic Games qualification as MOC supported the associations directly or indirectly.

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