ZIMBABWE is expecting to send its second largest delegation to a Summer Olympic Games since the Moscow 1980 Olympics with a projected team size of 31 athletes for Rio 2016, according to early estimates by the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC). BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Currently, eight athletes – swimming icon Kirsty Coventry, clay target shottist Mike Nicholson, marathon runners Wirimayi Juwawo, Pardon Ndhlovu, Gilbert Mutandiro and Cuthbert Nyasango and two rowers Micheen Thornycroft and Peter Purcell-Gilpin – have attained the required qualifying standards for the Games.
Zimbabwe will also, for the first time, be represented in women’s football after the Mighty Warriors’ historic qualification for the Rio Games after their victory over Cameroon.
As preparations for the global showpiece set for August 5 to 21 gather steam, ZOC chief excecutive Anna Mguni said the estimated team size currently totals 58 – 31 athletes and 27 officials.
“This is calculated in accordance with Olympic Charter rule 38 and the quotas established by the IOC executive board,” Mguni said. “The 27 officials include the chef de mission, games admin, Press attaché, sport coaches and their assistants, managers, sport specific technical personnel namely the caddie for golf and the horses’ groom and vet, the medical team. This number is entirely separate from and does not include invited dignitaries, who do not constitute part of the team,” Mguni said.
Mguni said the number could increase with additional athletes in other sporting codes such as golf, athletics, swimming, Sevens Rugby and equestrian still in contention to qualify for Rio 2016.
“Kirsty (Coventry) is likely to be joined by one other swimmer, probably male: this will be confirmed by FINA on July 16. In athletics, an estimated four additional athletes are anticipated to qualify over and above the marathon athletes,” she said.
Mguni added that United Kingdom-based Camilla Kruger of equestrian and US PGA Tour professional golfer Brendon de Jonge were also still pursuing qualification before the respective cut off dates set by their international federations.
“Kruger achieved the requisite qualifying score to be considered for Rio 2016 in the eventing competition, which is part of the 3 Equestrian disciplines that are offered at the Olympic Games.
“She meet the qualification criteria. Currently, she is working at acquiring the requisite amount of ranking points to win the Olympic slot over her South African and Tunisian rivals: men and women compete in the same category.
“In golf the Olympic Golf Rankings qualification period ends on July 11. Brendon de Jonge is currently ranked at No 40 on the list,” Mguni said.
Zimbabwe’s highest representation at the multi-sport global showpiece came in 1980 Moscow Games where 42 athletes represented the country, including the women’s hockey team which won a gold medal at these Games.
The highest number of athletes Zimbabwe has sent to a Summer Olympic Games since then was in 1988 when 29 athletes represented the nation in Seoul, Korea.
However, should Zimbabwe fail to meet its target of sending 31 athletes to Rio, the team size is still expected to be significantly bigger than the seven athletes who represented the country in London four years ago.