Following an immensely successful rowing season last year in which it managed to send representatives to both the Rio Olympics and Rio Paralympics, the Rowing Association of Zimbabwe (RAZ) has already set sights on a bigger participating crew at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Zimbabwe rowing has experienced a meteoric rise in the past couple of years, with the country competing at several top events at senior and junior levels.
It was no surprise when the discipline scooped a number of accolades at the 2016 Annual Sports Awards (Ansa) in Harare last month, with Olympian Micheen Thornycroft voted Sportswoman of the Year and RAZ scooping the development award, among others.
Zimbabwe rowing coach, Rachel Davis, won Coach of the Year while junior rower, Ciara Soper, was a nominee for Junior Sportswoman of the Year.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport yesterday, RAZ chairman Andrew Lorimar revelled in the growth and success of the sport in the country.
“RAZ is extremely delighted to have received three awards at the recent 2016 Ansa ceremony. Last year was an extremely good year for us, with our athletes competing in at least nine international regattas (rowing races),” he said.
“These include the Under-19 Junior World Championships, Under-23 World Championships, Olympics and Paralympics. We are already preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and would like to enter more crews. As part of our preparations, we are encouraging our rowers to get more regional and international racing experience and would like to set up a high performance rowing centre in Zimbabwe.”
Two senior athletes represented the country at the Rio Olympics in August 2016 and one rower took part in the Under-23 World Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in August 2016.
Five junior rowers competed at the Under-19 Junior World Championships in Rotterdam in August 2016, while a Zimbabwe team of five rowers participated in the Paralympics in September last year.
RAZ has a number of initiatives, which they will embark on beginning this year to ensure that their Tokyo Olympics targets are met.
“We want to grow rowing at school level in Zimbabwe, as this will ultimately make us more competitive at regional and international levels. We also believe that we have some really outstanding disabled athletes in Zimbabwe and that with proper training and preparation (including the acquisition of some purpose-built para-boats), we could achieve medal prospects at the international and Olympic level,” Lorimar said.
He revealed plans to improve facilities at Mazowe Dam for use, as a local and regional rowing training centre for athletes from Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Malawi and Nigeria, among others.
“We also would like to hold an international rowing regatta at Victoria Falls in early January 2018 and we are already talking to potential participants from across Africa, Europe and North America,” Lorimar said.