Tanzania: Combined Efforts, Awareness Can Revive Athletics

UNLIKE boxing which is now regaining life at both amateur and professional levels, the recently staged National Athletics Champions, athletics seem to be very close to the deathbed and something big must be done to revive it.

The Benjamin Mkapa stadium was disgustingly empty when the national level athletics meet took place last weekend, something which forces for a quick intervention to save the sport from total collapse.

We hoped the athletics to be fully revived now five years after Alphonce Simbu's 5th place in the Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro put the sport at the limelight, but the nationwide campaign has not almost ended fruitlessly.

In the beginning it looked as if Simbu would be alone in a campaign to revive athletics, focusing much on long distance races, which Tanzania excelled in the past four decades.

It was very motivating then to see Simbu influencing other athletes to train seriously for the world class races and four of them managed to have promising performances, though the number was too small compared to the overwhelmingly big number of world-class runners Kenya or Ethiopia produces.

As we have seen most of the runners excel in long distance races and marathons, we would suggest the athletics revival campaign should also groom sprinters and middle distance runners as well.

We seriously urge athletics stakeholders to join hands in motivating the revival of the two discipline since they can help us win medals like in the past when Claver Kamanya won bronze in 400m and later Filbert Bayi won the country's first gold in Commonwealth Games.

Samuel Mwera and Lwiza John won the country's last medals in 800m discipline in 2005. We laud all those who made the recent achievement as we again insist all Tanzania to support the medal-haul campaign.

The glorious days of athletics which looked not far away after Simbu feat, now seem to be far from reach as the sport seems to be still stuck.

Though it is very difficult to force the football-mania Tanzanians to take interest in athletics, we believe with increased awareness, promotion and motivation from combined efforts of all stakeholders, athletics can return to the golden era of Filbert Bayi and Suleiman Nyambui who won the only country's Olympic medals 40 years ago in Moscow-staged games.

Let's work together diligently, we can together rescue athletics.

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