THE country's top junior squash players have a busy schedule ahead of them this year as they are expected to take part in more than five international tournaments in South Africa, Namibia and overseas. Mashumba Mukumba, one of the country's top junior squash coaches, yesterday said that Zimbabwe have been invited to send a boys and girls team to the All-Africa Championships, which are set to run from March 28 to April 1 in Windhoek, Nambia.
And after taking part in the All-Africa Championships, Zimbabwe are also expected to send some of their top junior squash players to compete in this year's South African Country Districts Festival towards the end of March.
"We are going to send two teams for the All-Africa Championships and they (the teams) will be made up of three boys and two girls. This year's All-Africa Championships will run from March 28 to April 1 and we are hoping to do much better than what we did at the last event where we finished third overall behind World junior champions Egypt and South Africa.
"After taking part in the All-Africa Championships, we are also looking at sending a team to the South African Country Districts Festival from April 25 to 28. We are also going to send more than 60 players to the South African Schools Inter-provincials where we will have kids who will compete from the Under-11 to 19 age-groups in different parts of South Africa," Mukumba said.
He said during the Inter-provincials in South Africa, the Under-11 age-group will play their matches in Pretoria while the Under-13s will be based in Pietersmaritzburg.
The Under-14s, 16s and 19s will, meanwhile, play their matches in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town respectively.
Mukumba said these tournaments are of great help to the local junior players because they will give them the much-needed international exposure and experience as well.
Zimbabwe were also invited to send representatives to "The Mother of all Tournaments" this year -- the Junior Team Championships -- in Poland in July but they are unlikely to send a team there due to limited financial resources.
Mukumba, however, said this year will see them injecting "some new blood" into the Zimbabwe junior teams for the regional and continental championships.
He also saluted some of these players' parents whom he said have been "very supportive" in their mission to build strong junior teams for this year's international tournaments.
"Some of these parents were very happy to see their kids being selected to be in the Zimbabwe squad which will represent the country at these tournaments," Mukumba said.
The squad was selected after the Zimbabwe Junior Squash Championships which were recently staged in Harare.
The tournament was staged at three different venues, namely Belgravia Sports Club, Old Georgians and St John's College.
"The turn out for the tournament was the best as compared to the ones that we've had in the past four years. This year we had 140 children who took part in different age-groups. The performance and the level of competition was also high, especially in the boys Under-19 section where a new star -- Blessing Muhwati -- was born. The tournament also enabled us to select the squad to represent Zimbabwe in this year's international tournaments.
"And I would like to thank FedEx for bank rolling this tournament and giving us hope to have more and more sponsors on board. I would also like to thank all the parents, kids, organisers and other supporters for making it possible for us to stage this prestigious event.
"The other interesting thing is that some of the champions who emerged from this tournament came from the Zimbabwe Squash Academy which is currently working hard to bring the sport to all . . . I never thought the sport will grow so fast like what is happening now," Mukumba said.
Zimbabwe Junior Squash Championships
Winner: Mark Johnson 3
Runner: up Nicolas Paul 2
Winner: Kyle Terkrooden 3
Runner-- up: Jason Franklin 0
3rd: Miguel Roscoe 3
4th: Tino Maswi 1
Winner: Polite Mubure 3
Runner-up: Danai Jongwe 0
3rd: Tamlyn Burns 3
4th: Casmea Burns 0
Boys Under 14
Winner: Luke Manion 3
Runner-up: Anesu Mlambo 0
3rd: Kyle Hendry 3
4th: Matt Davenport
Winner: Viviane O'Donovan 3
Runner-up: Cate Bartlett 0
3rd: Catherine Flannagan 0
4th: Naomi Cohen 0
Winner: Callum Lawton 3
Runner-up Damen Balneaves 2
Winner: Danielle Cunningham 3
Runner-up Carley Barton 0
Winner: Yvonne Mubure 3
Runner-up: Ashleigh Bruce 1
3rd: Stephanie Hobart 3
4th: Danielle Cinningham 2
Winner: Blessing Muhwati 3
Runner-up: Faisal Hassan 0
3rd: Runyararo Kadyautumbe 3
4th: Bryn Turk 1