Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE'S long distance runners will have to wait for another opportunity, to try and qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, after they missed qualification yesterday in Siena, Italy.
The quartet of Munyaradzi Jari, Ngonidzashe Ncube, Isaac Mpofu and Fortunate Chidzivo were among athletes who competed in the Xiamen Marathon and Tuscany Camp Global Elite Race.
However, they could not make the qualifying times for the Games, which has been set at 2 hours 11 minutes 30 seconds, for the men's marathon.
For the women, the time is 2 hours 29 minutes 30 seconds.
Ncube missed qualification by less than a minute, when he clocked 2 hours 12 minutes 25 seconds, to finish on position 33.
His training partner Mpofu posted a time of 2 hours 13 minutes 31 seconds to settle for position 36.
Jari was number 46, in 2 hours 17 minutes 44 seconds.
Although the pair of Ncube and Mpofu managed to improve their times, it was not good enough to earn them a spot at the Games, set to take place from July 23 to August 8.
After a good show at the World Half marathon, there were high hope for Chidzivo, in the women's section.
But, she found the going tough yesterday and could not finish the race.
Kenya's Eric Kiptanui was the first to cross the finish line in 2 hours 5 minutes 47 seconds in the men's category.
Abdifufa Nigassa of Ethiopia was second in 2 hours 5 minutes 57 seconds, followed by Morocco's Othmane Elgoumri, with a time of 2 hours 6 minutes 18 seconds.
The women's race was won by Kenya's Angela Tanui in 2 hours 20 minutes 8 seconds.
Another Kenyan Purityjebicii Changwony was second in 2 hours 22 minutes 46 seconds and on third place was Ethiopia's Gebiyaneshayele Gedamu with a time of 2 hours 23 minutes 23 seconds.
Jari was left a disappointed men after yesterday's performance.
"I am disappointed. I was looking forward to qualifying. I believe I could have done better, and even qualified, but I don't know what happened to my body.
"I failed to respond to the weather, it was too cold.
"The race was tough and I didn't do well," said Jari.
One of the coaches, who has been helping the athletes with their preparations, Collen Makaza, said they are going back to training, for another race, scheduled for South Africa next month.
"It's unfortunate they did not qualify. But their times, particularly for Ngonidzashe and Isaac, are not bad.
"It showed that we worked as athletes and coaches. We tried our best with the limited resources we had.
"The times are not bad, we need to work more on speed. I think the next race is in South Africa in May in Port Elizabeth. It is also a qualifying race for the Olympics.
"For Munya, I think, his speed in the first 21km was too fast and it affected him.
"I think that's our last chance, so we need to go back to training as soon as possible.
"It's hard to qualify in Africa, this was our best opportunity," said Makaza.
The closing date for marathon qualification is May 31.