MORE than 150 swimmers are set to converge at Les Brown Pool in Harare tonight for the start of the National Senior Swimming Championships which will end on Mondaynext week. The five-day event will see top swimmers from Mashonaland, Matabeleland, Mashonaland Country District, Midlands and Manicaland taking part in four age groups -- the 12-and-Under, 13 to 14-year-olds, 15 to 16-year-olds and the 17 and over age-group.
Mashonaland are the defending champions and their vice-chairperson, Celso Chiang, yesterday said they were ready to defend their title but noted that Matabeleland might be a threat to their quest for success.
"We have got about 103 swimmers representing Mashonaland and it's going to be serious competition.
"We have been winning the title consistently but in terms of individuals, Matabeleland have (some) good swimmers. We beat them in terms of numbers but they are going to give us some real competition.
"We have got in each age-group, two to three outstanding swimmers. We are definitely going to retain the title and it's going to be a very entertaining weekend, everybody is really anxious ," said Chiang.
Some of the swimmers who are expected to lead Mashonaland in their quest to retain the national championship title are Nick Burnett, who is the captain for the boys, and James Lawson, who set a national record in the 100m breaststroke in 2011, when he took part in the Zone Six Youth Championships in Swaziland. Megan Carey-Smith will lead the Mashonaland girls team and will compete in the 17 and over age-group.
For the up-and-coming swimmers, the limelight will be on Bruce Chiang and Nomvula Mjimba, who will be out to prove themselves as they face some of the country's fellow top swimmers during the national championships.
Bruce Chiang and Mjimba collected five medals each in individual events during the Mashonaland Junior Championships held early this month, helping their club, Harare Otters, to retain their title.
Also in the Mashonaland team is another promising young female swimmer, Chengetai Zimuto (11), a Grade Seven pupil at Harare Dominican Convent School.
Zimuto is the daughter of Harare businessman, Nhamo Zimuto, who owns a number of nightclubs in and outside Harare, and he said yesterday that he will be at Les Brown Pool at the weekend "in full force" to give his daughter and her teammates in the Mashonaland team support during the weekend's national championships.
Mashonaland Country District will, meanwhile be fielding 25 swimmers and club chairperson, Tracey Doorman, said they will be out to win (some) medals.
"We have got higher expectations. We have 25 swimmers and we are hoping that one of our girls will finish on top in the overall competition. Last year, Lorna Doorman took the women's overall points title and we were placed third.
"We would like to give other provinces a good run for their money, especially in the relay events and all of our swimmers will give their best," said Doorman.
Zimbabwe Aquatic Union president, Mary Kloppers, said they were looking forward to some tough competition and will be using the championships to select a team that will take part in the South African Championships next month.
"All the senior events will be competed in. This is a national event and we are expecting the swimmers to reach their peak. Mashonaland have been winning for many years, it's a numbers game (and) they have more swimmers. The event has been growing and improving in consistency due to the fact that we have been sending our coaches to worldclass coaching clinics.
"After this, we will be touring South Africa in March and we will be selecting a team during this event. We are hoping to send about 100 swimmers to South Africa," said Kloppers. The ZAU president said this year's championships will be graced by Zimbabwean swimming icon Kirsty Coventry.
"The only difference for this year's event is that we will have Kirsty Coventry as the guest of honour. As a swimming community, we would want to recognise her achievements," said Kloppers.
Meanwhile, seven swimmers have pulled out of the Matabeleland team for the national championships due to other pressing commitments.
The seven, who include the talented Lezar brothers Joshua, Jordan and Jaryd, and Connor Pritchard, were part of the 52-member Matabeleland team which was named earlier this week for the national championships.
Matabeleland Amateur Swimming Board chairman, Eddie Cyprianos, confirmed thewithdrawal of seven of their top swimmers, saying that they have other commitments.
Despite this minor setback, Cyprianos said they were ready to give it their best shot during this weekend's national championships in Harare.
Cyprianos said they have "exceptional and talented swimmers who can hold their own against the best in the country".
Rising star Andressious Cyprianos will the lead the Matabeleland boys team while the dependable Avalor Bruce will captain the girls team.
The two are expected to lead by example and bag a number of medals at Les Brown Pool in Harare this weekend.
"We are ready and the swimmers are prepared to give it their best shot and will win a number of medals," Eddie Cyprianos said.
Mashonaland Team 12 and Under
Boys: Lance Annandale, Bruce Chiang, Jordan Cowley, Everard Mouafo, Cole Onorati, Kurt Platen, Jamie Cawood, Tatenda Makova, Tariro Mtetwa,, Bryan Gorringe, Ethan Burbidge, Mapalo Musaba.
Girls: Amy Leigh Adams, Dayna Bond, Rumbidzai Chisango, Jordyn Davis, Carrie Day, Zoe Day, Thania Frank, Ashley Makuwa, Claire Melrose, Hollie Stander, Chengetai Zimuto, Lorryn Bass, Sam Ndlovu, Nomvula Mjimba, Amu Valela, Megan Kadzirange, Kundai Kadzviti, Ruvarashe Jongwe, Courtney Brown.
13 and 14-year-olds
Boys: Ricardo Joe, Marcus Steele, Daniel Zanin, Desmond Annandale, Martin Eeson, Andre Dingiswayo, Ayman Khatoun, Byron Rusch, Sinclair Stoole, Chris Vlahakis, Liam Davis, Chase Onorati, Zack Langridge, Craig van den Berg, Douglas Dorward, Mathew Stephens.
Girls: Sahnya Adbulla, Sabrina Beattie, Rutendo Maruta, Nyasha Mukonoweshuro, Lara Peirce, Shamiso Gambe, Tori Goldsmith, Melissa Watt. Kristen Hopper, Rebecca Jarvis, Tatiana Vallabh, Waliya Frank, Katy Maberly, Courtney Archer, Rosie Strong, Yemurai Shangwa.
15 and 16-year-olds
Boys: Aiden Burnett, Colin Horsley, Gabriel Joseph, Rhyder Quinlan, Chadamoyo Koschke, Brandon Chiang, Ryan Hounsell, Aidan Onorati, Stuart Price, Thomas Reid, Ryan Rusch, Kristian Stally, Miguel Umali, Federico Bescotti, Liam Burnett, Dylan Steyl, Christopher Tomlinson.
Girls: Sarah Hawgood, Cerise Dingiswayo, Gamu Mutseriwa, Danai Makova, Carmen Matuska, Sydney Hencil, Laurie Stephens, Ratidzo Mutangadura.
17 years and Over
Boys: Johannes Kloppers, Tibone Matitkiti, Lebo Ngwenya, Richard Stack, Sloane Marshall (vice captain), Nick Burnett (captain), James Lawson.
Girls: Misty Batchelor, Kim Bellringer (vice captain), Natasha Rusch, Natasha Lawson, Nicole Cilliers, Megan Carey-Smith (captain).