ATHLETICS is Tanzania's strongest sport and the one in which the country had gained much respect in the face of the world.
This was when two Tanzania athletics legends, Filbert Bayi and Suleiman Nyambui brought home Olympic medals in the 1980 at the Summer Olympics in Moscow. Since that time when these two gurus put Tanzania in the world map by Bayi winning a silver medal in the 3000m steeplechase and Nyambui winning a silver medal in 5000 metres, not even a humble bronze medal has ever been achieved by Tanzania athletes in such games.
Any stake holder in sports must ask him/her self what went wrong. What has Tanzania suddenly faded out of the world map of athletics and sports in general? The puzzle was unraveled by the President of Athletics Tanzania Federation (ATF), Anthony Mtaka, when he was speaking as the Guest of honour during the just ended Rock City Marathon 2012, which was held last Sunday in Mwanza.
According to Mtaka, athletics is one sport that has not received enough investment and hence it has slowly dwindled to an extent that many talents are thwarted and ultimately wasted. "Many companies shy away from supporting athletics and instead prefer putting their money in to support football. This experience has proved to be a challenge in trying to raise performance standards of our athletes," Mtaka said.
He was particular with the lack of facilities, equipment and sports gears facing athletes in Tanzania, who are forced at times to run bare foot and some fail to practice because of lack of enough food. "Athletics needs facilities, it needs equipment, it needs enough food for our athletes. These are some areas where companies, organizations, individuals and even the Government should invest in if we want to bring back our country' lost glory," he said.
ATF President gave thumbs up for Capital Plus International Ltd, who organized the Rock City Marathon 2012, for giving the event a meaning by giving an opportunity for many people to participate by having many categories; i.e, 21km race, 5km open race, 3km race for elderly, 3km race for people with special needs (disables and albinos) and 2km race for children. "I am happy with how this event was handled in a professional manner.
For the first time in the history of athletics, especially marathon, in the country, we have witnessed an event that covers all categories from elderly people to children. This year's Rock City Marathon has also registered a history by managing to award participants from the first position to the 25th person. This is very encouraging to athletes who will not only take athletics as sports activity but will see it as source of employment," he said.
The Secretary General of Athletics Tanzania (AT) Suleiman Nyambui said that Rock City Marathon has proved to be a big success as years tick by. "I am very proud of this event and I can see its future is very bright. I urge companies, organizations and individuals who love to see athletics sports growing in this country to support organizers of such events so that they can help to strengthen athletics spirit in the country," Mr Nyambui, former Olympic medalist said.
In this year's Rock City Marathon, apart from medals given to winners, cash prizes were also given where by the 21-kilometre winners took home 1.2m/- each while the first runners up were given 900,000/- each in all categories. Winners in the 5km category walked away with medals and 50,000/- for the first position on both men and women categories each, second position 30,000/- each, third position 20,000/- and fourth to 25th position pocketed 15,000/- each.
For the 2km which is a race meant for children of between seven and 10 year old, the winner Idd Suguta from Mara and Emma Imhoff took home 30,000/-, first runner-up 20,000/- and second runner-up got 15,000/-, while those between fourth and 25th position received get 10,000/- each for all categories.
According to the Coordinator of Rock City Marathon 2012, Grace Sanga, prizes were extended to a large number of participants because of a good turn-up of sponsores like National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Airtel Tanzania, Geita Gold Mine, Air Tanzania Company Limited, Parastatal Pensions Fund (PPF), African Barrick Gold, New Africa Hotel, Nyanza Bottles, New Mwanza Hotel, Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) and the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB).
She said the event which apart from unearthing new athletics talents in the country and helping to nurture the already identified athletes, it also aims at promoting tourism through sports. The event saw 2015 participants coming across all regions in the country and from nine foreign countries.
The NSSF Principle Public Relations and Customers Service officer, Theopista Muheza said her organization has been supporting the event every year in a bid to promote sports in the country. "We have been improving on the package we give organizers of this event each year because we would like to see improvement in performance of our athletes. I must confess that we are impressed with the outcome of this event from its preparation and participation, where we have seen our own runner winning the title against the Kenyans who are more respected for such long distance races," she said.
Jane Matinde, the Airtel Public Relations Officer, said Rock City Marathon has proved to be a platform where talents of many athletes are revealed and hence need to tap and use them maximally for the benefit of the country, not forgetting that such sports can also change an individual's life.
Kopiro Mwita and Mary Naaly won the half marathon titles of the Rock City edition for men and women categories held in Mwanza, respectively. Mwita clocked 1:04:02 hour to outsmart over 375 competitors while Mary managed 1:16:33 hour to claim the title beating 122 others. Runners-up for men was Joseph Chacha from Mara with a 1:04:03 timing to beat third placed Alphonce Felix who clocked1:04:06.
Fourth was Paschal Mambo from Arusha who clocked 1:04:11 while Amos Koech from Kenya clocked 1: 04:23. In the women category Zanzibar's Sarah Ramadhani clocked 1:16:37 to push Anastasia Asandai from Arusha to the third with her 1:19:05. Dotto Ikangara from Arusha excelled in the men's five-kilometre race, beating John Joseph from Singida and Paul Elias from Ukerewe who became third.
Jeremiah Kinshuzi from Mwanza won the 3km race for elderly category and Pascal Emanuel from Kisese was fast in the category of people with special needs. For the 2km which is a race meant for children of between seven and 10 year old, the winner Idd Suguta from Mara and Emma Imhoff. Jumma Nature and Babby Madaa thrilled participants and thousands of Mwanza residents who turned in large numbers to cheer participants. They sung their new song "Narudi Kijijini".