Zimbabwe: JAZ Hopeful of Olympics

The Judo Association of Zimbabwe remains hopeful of making the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when their Christi-Rose Pretorius takes part at the Africa Championships next month in Morocco.

The competition is slated for May 22 and Zimbabwe will be pinning their hopes on the UK-based athlete who has had some promising performances in the past.

Judo is one of the several sport codes that have been targeted for qualification to the rescheduled Tokyo Games from July 23 to August 8.

JAZ president Smart Deke said after facing some financial challenges, they are glad the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee is providing the needed support for Pretorius to ensure she takes part in the qualifiers.

"Our athlete Christi-Rose last year she actually faced some financial challenges but we are happy now that the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee are now coming in to support her.

"So she is going to participate in the Africa Championships that are going to be in Morocco on the 22nd of May. So Christi-Rose is going to be there participating and we hope that with the few competitions that are left she will be able to do well for her to qualify.

"So we are working on that and she is now back in training. She also went through the vaccination and is also following all the requirements in terms of travelling outside and inside the UK. So she is going to be with us in Morocco this year on May 22," said Deke.

Besides the Olympics, the national association is looking forward to the African Union Sports Council Region Five Games scheduled for Lesotho later this year.

The Games that were scheduled for last year were moved to this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are expected to take place in December in Maseru, Lesotho.

As judo resumes its activities, Deke said they are excited and they have to brace up for a busy season if they are to meet some of their goals.

"We are also going to work on our competitions because this year we also have the Region Five Games that are going to be in Lesotho, that's for Under-20s.

"Other countries have been ahead of us because they have already been back into training and competitions.

"We have been out of action for a year, so we are more or less on rebuilding, starting again because we might have lost some of the athletes. But we are still expecting to have the biggest number and we had to come back and re-join the sport again.

"We know there is a lot that we are going to follow in terms of us being sure that we are going to be safe as we are going to resume our sport. Basically, that's the situation that we are in now but we are ready to start and to go. With the money that we have, we will be able to start and run our sport again," said Deke.

The national association is engaging clubs and coaches to ensure they follow the regulations for the safe return of the sport.

"We are going to start with clubs. We are meeting with all club coaches and we have already circulated all the Covid-19 protocol procedures which each coach and clubs are supposed to follow... Beside that all the coaches are excited to be back," Deke said.

Zimbabwe have also received support from the International Judo Federation in terms of equipment to channel towards their grassroots development programme, which is targeting schools across the country. This will go a long way in decentralising the sport to other provinces and Deke said they are looking forward to start rolling out the programme soon.

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