ZIMBABWEANS have been criticised for not giving their athletes due recognition when they excel at major international sporting events. Speaking after attending the Matabeleland Bowls annual prize-giving function in Bulawayo on Saturday, Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart said he generally feels that the country does not give "sufficient recognition" to its athletes who would have done the nation proud at the world stage.
Coltart said this while congratulating female lawn bowler Jane Rigby for winning a silver medal at the World Singles Champion of Championships in Cyprus last month where she lost to New Zealand's Sandra Keith in the final.
"I am continually amazed by Zimbabweans' sporting achievements on the world stage.
"In my view, we do not give sufficient recognition to our athletes who do so much to make us all feel proud and who are also such fine ambassadors for our nation.
"So often Zimbabwe is associated with terrible things in the minds of foreigners and it takes achievements like these to remind the world that there is another very positive side to Zimbabwe.
"A Zimbabwe which is marked by talented, honest people who strive for excellence and who achieve great things against the odds. So well done Jane, Amhlope, Makorokoto, Congratulations . . . we are all mighty proud of your achievements.
"This is a superb achievement and on behalf of the Government, I heartily congratulate her," Coltart said.
On her way to reaching the final at the World Singles Champion of Championships, Rigby beat a player from Wales in the semi-finals.
In the final, Rigby met Keith of New Zealand and lost to the New Zealander in a tightly-contested match.
Finding her stride early, Canterbury bowler Keith took the first set 11-3 and then sealed the game with a 10-9 win in the second to win the World Champion of Champions singles titles in Cyprus and joined Jan Khan (2010) and Jo Edwards (2011) as winners of the event and to give New Zealand their third successive victory.
It was a culmination of an amazing year for Keith and one which should see her elevated into the New Zealand national squad at short notice.
Keith qualified to compete in Cyprus by winning the New Zealand singles title in Auckland back in January, but that wasn't her only national success in the first half of the year. She also skipped the winning triple at the Bowls New Zealand national club championships, which included Leeston clubmates Serena Mathews and Karolyn Boon.
The trio were named Bowls Canterbury team of the year. Keith also teamed up with Valmai Hantz to win the pairs at the national club championships.
Keith also skipped Leeston teams to win the Canterbury open pairs, triples and fours. To win in Cyprus, Keith had to endure a tense week of bowls, but managed to waltz through the qualifying stages of the competition having lost only one match to an opponent from Malta.
Incidentally, the pair met again in the semi-finals but Keith turned the result around to win 11-6, 5-7 and advance to the final against Zimbabwe's Rigby.