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ZIM PARALYMPICS TARGET BERLIN GRAND PRIX

A penultimate Paralympics qualifier event — the Berlin Grand Prix — has been slated for July 16 and 17 in the German capital. By Munyaradzi Madzokere – The Standard
Only two athletes, Shepherd Gumede and Laina Sithole, have so far met the qualifying standards after excelling at the African Games in Congo Brazzaville last year.
ZNPC is awaiting confirmation from the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) on the qualification status of the two athletes.
In an interview with Standardsport, Zimbabwe Paralympics team Chief d’ Mission, Witness Magulula confirmed that ZNPC had already secured a grant from the government to send a team to Germany in July.
“As I speak, we are working around the clock so that we travel to Berlin, Germany where there is a qualifier in July. Hopefully, with more resources, it is our desire to take as many athletes as possible, but finances remain a limiting factor to our ambitions. We have already secured a grant from the government to take just a few athletes to Germany and we are still approaching the corporate world for assistance towards this endeavour,” Magulula said.
Apart from the Berlin Grand Prix, the IPC has organised nine other track and field athletics meetings between February and July this year to serve as Paralympic Games tests, with the last one being the Grand Prix Final to be staged on July 23 in London.
Magulula added: “So far we have two athletes who have attained BQS for Rio 2016, which is the minimum qualifying standard. This means our athletes have not qualified yet but have met the criteria that can allow us to apply for a Bipartite slot consideration by IPC. We have since applied for that.”
Gumede made the Paralympics grade in the men 400 T13 category while sprint queen Sithole is poised to compete in the women 100m T12, as well as 200m T12 in Rio.
The Rio Paralympic Games are scheduled for September 7-18.
It has been 12 years since Zimbabwe won a Paralympics medal. This was in 2004 when amputee Elliot Mujaji scooped gold in a 100m dash at Athens. He had also won gold in Sydney four years earlier.
However, Mugulula believes that the wait could finally be over.
“The level of competition there is very high but let me assure you that we are not going there to add numbers. As Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee, we aim to take podium athletes there for the sake of our pride as a nation. Paralympic sport in Zimbabwe has a history of standing on the podium, be it at the Paralympics, African Games and AUSC Region Games,” he said.
He also made a passionate appeal to the corporate world to partner the government in support of ZNPC preparations for Rio 2016.
Rio 2016 will see athletes compete in 23 sporting disciplines, including athletes, archery, boccia, equestrian, 7-a-side football, judo, rowing, road cycling, swimming, triathlon, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair rugby and sitting volleyball, among many others.

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