After enjoying a storming start in the United States collegiate indoor track and field season, Zimbabwe triple jump sensation Chengetayi Mapaya is confident of securing a maiden berth at the IAAF World Championships later this year.
The 20-year-old, who is on a track and field scholarship at Texas Christian University (TCU), celebrated yet another milestone achievement last week after winning the men's triple jump at the 2019 Big 12 Indoor Championships on Saturday.
Mapaya rose to the occasion in the men's triple jump field, which featured several of the top collegiate jumpers in the US, taking home the coveted title with a TCU-record jump of 16,83m.
As a result, Mapaya is currently ranked third in the US and eighth in the world for the track and field event.
Now the former African Junior Championship gold medallist has set his sights on representing the country on the global stage after qualifying for the 2019 IAAF World Championships to be held in Doha, Qatar, from September 28 through to October 6.
The qualifying standard for the triple jump event at the global event is 16,95m and Mapaya believes he if stays injury-free, he will book his ticket to the event during the outdoor season.
Qualifying for the World Championships will be the first step in Mapaya's goal to not only qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games but also make it to the final.
"I am confident I will be able to qualify for World Champs in Doha. Usually the indoor season is harder than the outdoor season and I have jumped 16,83m already and qualifying distance is 16,95," Mapaya told The Sports Hub from his base in the US.
"I'm pretty positive when outdoor starts I will be able to qualify. To reach this goal I need to stay healthy and just not get any injuries. I honestly feel like that is the only limiting factor with me now, injuries."
Mapaya credited the rapid progress he has made since his move to the US to the longer pre-season training he has been exposed to, compared to when he was competing locally.
"I have had my best ever start to a season and I believe this is all because of the solid pre-season I had from July to January. Since I started doing track, I only started training in December, and now when I moved here I got a better foundation and it is now showing at the start of the season," he said.
"I recently started lifting weights too, which is something I didn't do when I was in Zimbabwe, so I have gotten stronger because of weights. It has come to the fact that I now know I am faster than what I was last year and I'm stronger," he added.
Mapaya is also happy with how he has managed to strike a fine balance between his studies and his track commitments after initially struggling to adjust following his move to the US in January last year.
"Honestly, it was very difficult to adjust because if I didn't adjust and get used to the system I would lose my scholarship, so that gave me all the motivation to work hard. When I came last year in January I had a rough time balancing my sport and track. Everything was done online and I was used to high school where we had to hand in a book to our teacher with our homework. I used to miss a lot of assignments because I would be so tired from training. Now I have settled pretty decently, I now have a better grasp of time management as I travel a lot. I usually always try go ahead in my classes and to be always in communication with my professors," he said.
The eldest in a family of three Mapaya, who was born on December 19 1998, did his primary education at Southern Primary School and Hartmann House before proceeding to St George's College for his high school.
It was at St George's College where his raw talents were honed with the help of his coach, the multi-talented Brenda Leipe, who has represented Zimbabwe in athletics, hockey and golf.
Mapaya burst on to the local athletics scene after shattering several records on his way to a memorable gold medal at the African Junior Athletics Championships in Algeria two years ago.
He jumped a then personal best mark of 16,30 metres, breaking the African Junior Athletics Championships record of 16,16 metres set by Ali Bouguesba of Algeria in 2009.
His mark in the Algerian city of Tlemcen was, however, short of the long standing African junior triple jump record of 16,96m set by South Africa's Olympic silver medallist Godfrey Khotso Mokoena in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in April 2004.
Mapaya is one of the two Zimbabweans on the TCU roster together with former Prince Edward School sprinter Tinotenda Matiyenga, who excelled individually in the 100m and 200m while also establishing himself as a key member of the school's 4x100m relay team.
Other Zimbabwean student athletes who have been excelling in track and field at several universities in the US include the Drake University pair of sprinter Kundai Maguranyanga and long jumper Cloud Masibhera, who are coached by Olympian and world championship bronze medallist Ngonidzashe Makusha.
Tatenda Tsumba, who represented Zimbabwe at the Rio Olympics, is a key member of the Brigham Young University track team, while the duo of triple jumper Brian Mada and sprinter Rutendo Chimbaru have been excelling at DePaul University.
Eighteen-year-old Alfred Chawonza, a budding 400 and 800m specialist, has been breaking several records at St Benedict's Prep in New Jersey, being scouted by some of the top universities in the US such as TCU, Texas Tech and Louisiana State University.
Victor Mathuthu, a former student at Northlea High School in Bulawayo, has also established himself as a key member of the University of North Carolina Asheville track and field team, starring in the triple jump, long jump and his school team's 4x400m relay team.