Female short-distance runner Asimenye Simwaka has qualified for today’s 400 metres (m) final at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
The 24-year-old Malawi Defence Force (MDF) recruit came second in heat one of the semi-final after crossing the finishing line in 51.70 seconds. She was 70 milliseconds behind the winner Victoria Ohuruogu of England.
Simwaka joins Jamaica’s Juelle Bromfield, England’s Ohuruogo, Jodie Williams and Ama Pipe, Scotland’s Zoey Clarke, Canada’s Kyra Constantine and Barbados’ Sada Williams.
If she wins a medal, she will effectively end Malawi’s 36-year medal drought and become the country’s fourth Commonwealth Games medallist after three boxers bronze winners Tatu Chionga (1970) and Lyton Mphande and Solomon Kondowe (1986).
Simwaka could have had a a double medal chase had she not stumbled in the women’s 200m semi-final, where she clocked 23.59 seconds to finish fifth.
Top-three athletes Jamaican Elaine Thomson-Herah (22.63), Canadian Natassha McDonald (23.21) and Scottish Beth Dobbin (23.28) made the grade.
“It was my dream to search for medals in both 400m and 200m. However, I am delighted to have made it in the 400m final. I will do my best to pluck a medal this Sunday,” she said.
However, Simwaka has set new national records in 200m (23.28) and 400m (52.19).
She also broke the 400m record with a personal best of 51.70 as she qualified for the final.
Meanwhile, President Lazarus Chakwera on Friday said he was proud of Simwaka’s feat.
He wrote on his Facebook page Friday night: “Proud of Malawi’s Asimenye Simwaka for qualifying for the 400m final at the Commonwealth Games tonight.”
Minister of Youth and Sports Richard Chimwendo-Banda also said government is happy and proud of her achievement.
Athletics Association of Malawi president Godfrey Phiri and general secretary Frank Chitembeya yesterday said Simwaka has put Malawi on the map.
Phiri said: “We are very happy with the results of our athlete. She has performed very well and this is the first time to see a Malawian athlete qualifying for the finals. At these games, it is no mean achievement to be among the best seven athletes. She has already made a great achievement and a medal will come as a bonus.”
On his part, Chitembeya explained that the country is proud of her as many federations, including the America Athletics Federation, have congratulated Malawi.
“This is a dream come true. Simwaka has really raised the Malawi flag. This is beyond our expectation and it clearly proves that we have good athletes but lack adequate support,” he said.
Judo athlete Harriet Boniface also missed bronze medal in 48 kilogrammes after losing to Indian Shushila Devi Likmanbam.