ZIMBABWE Olympic Committee chief executive Anna Mguni says national associations and federations should play their part in the development of athletes if the nation is to produce top athletes who can win medals at the next Olympic Games. This comes after the nation's failure to win medals at last year's Games in London and now with the International Olympic Committee's Olympic Solidarity having structured their new quadrennial plan for the period of 2013 to 2016, Zimbabwe have to begin their preparations for Rio 2016 if they are to realise any meaningful performance at the Games.
The Olympic Solidarity's aim is to organise assistance for all National Olympic Committees, particularly those with the greatest needs, so that they can develop their own structures to favour the expansion of the sport in their country and this includes Olympic Solidarity Scholarships for athletes.
For Zimbabwe, some of the athletes that have benefited from this plan are swimming icon Kirsty Coventry, track and field athlete Ngonidzashe Makusha and sprinter Brian Dzingai.
Mguni revealed that local athletes will continue to benefit from this plan and the programme will take effect from August 2014 to August 2016 but emphasised on the need of development of athletes.
"The International Olympic Committee's Olympic Solidarity has just rolled out the new quadrennial plan for the period of 2013 to 2016.
"This is the plan through which all 204 NOCs in the world benefit from the Olympic-funded activities and programmes.
"One of the programmes includes Olympic Scholarships for athletes to Rio 2016 Games. The programme will take effect from August 2014 to August 2016.
"We have no definite numbers as yet but we are confident that scholarships will be awarded in preparation for Rio 2016. The selection process is transparent and managed through a system set-up by the Olympic Solidarity.
"The NOC cannot restrict this option to specific sporting disciplines, given that the scholarships are awarded to elite athletes that are highly ranked according to their international federations.
"The athletes must have sufficient technical level to be able to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games. Proof for the athlete's technical sports level must be shown through results obtained at national and international competitions," said Mguni.
The ZOC boss said although some athletes will get the scholarships, there is need for the national associations and national federations to do their part in nurturing the athletes.
"It is important to realise that athletes and athlete development are principally the responsibility of the national federations or national associations.
"Our objectives as a National Olympic Committee, while we are centred around the participation and performance at the Games, we tend to be broader and to this end NOCs rely on the national federations and national associations to play their part.
"Undoubtedly, the (country's) performance at London 2012 raised concern with all stakeholders. Evaluation and forward planning have taken centre stage with programmes and activities reflective of this position taken by the NOC.
"Research play a fundamental role in charting our way forward and our activities will be evidence based and strategically driven," said Mguni.
Mguni said there is need to invest in national associations if the nation is to get the desired results from the athletes.
"A fundamental point to note is the direct intervention that needs to be made to assist national associations to produce the desired results and better performance by athletes.
"National associations need to be adequately engaged and appropriately resourced.
"Issues relating to athlete nurturing, development, placement, tracking and monitoring, facilities development and maintenance, hosting of international events, training of technical and administrative staff continue to raise concern with national associations and to date these have not been addressed.
"This is best done through consultation and dialogue to ensure that resources are channelled to where our greatest potential lies," added Mguni.
The ZOC chief executive said there is need for all stakeholders to come together for the development of sport in this country.
"Sport must be given a prominent role in the nation and this is very evident in the need to adequately and consistently support governing bodies such as the Sport and Recreation Commission and the NOC.
"It should be noted that these entities do not work in isolation of each other but are part of the greater drive to ensure sporting success is realised.
"Neither do these units work alone as governing bodies, but instead rely on the co-operation of all the stakeholders whose goal is Zimbabwe's sporting success," said Mguni.
She also said that there is abundant talent in all sporting disciplines but lack of proper functioning systems has been the major setback for the nation.
"Talent is abound in various disciplines but the challenge arises in a malfunctioning system that is failing to produce the desired end result.
"The solution lies in greater co-operation from all stakeholders as earlier outlined," Mguni said.