Four Zimbabwe marathon runners will bid to qualify for the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games in Sienna, Italy, this morning after getting assistance from the Italian Athletics Federation to be part of the first edition of the Tuscany Camp Marathon.
Munyaradzi Jari, Ngonidzashe Ncube, Isaac Mpofu and Fortunate Chidzivo left the country on Thursday for the European Olympic Marathon Qualification Race, also known as the Xiamen Marathon, and Tuscany Camp Global Elite Race.
South African coach Craig Fry, who works with Jari, Mpofu and Ncube, was also part of the delegation
The four will be looking to get the qualifying times for the global games at the Tuscany Camp Marathon with the qualifying period for the marathon expected to close on May 31.
The Italian embassy in Zimbabwe, which wished the athletes well, revealed that the marathon runners got assistance from the Italian Athletics Federation to be part of the event.
"The Italian Athletics Federation invited the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe to send four athletes --three men and one lady--for the Tuscany Marathon Camp which is an Olympics qualification event," cultural attache at the Italian embassy in Zimbabwe Massimo Amadeo said.
"The Italian Athletics Federation also assisted the athletes with air tickets, food, health insurance and accommodation.
"We are happy that Zimbabwe is participating at this event. The ambassador Carlo Perrotta met the athletes and wished them well," he added.
Perotta met the athletes on April 1 when they collected their visas for the trip.
The race comes as a relief for the athletes since competitions have been limited due to the pandemic.
Massimo said Italy and Zimbabwe a history of collaborating with each other in many areas other than sport.
The Olympics qualifying time for men is 2 hours 11 minutes 30 seconds, while women have to complete the race inside 2 hours 29 minutes 30 seconds to make the trip to Tokyo.
Top marathon runners from across the globe will be taking part at the European Olympic Marathon Qualification Race. Among them are Ethiopian Leul, Marius Kipserem from Kenya and Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) who have recorded times under 2 hour 5 minutes before, in the men's category.
Others to watch out for are Eritrean Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, Marius Kimutai (Bahrain) Deribe Robi (Ethiopia) and Kenyan Eric Kiptanui.
In the women's category, Chidzivo, who set a new national record at the World Half marathon last October, in Poland posting a time of 1 hour 10 minutes, will line up against some of the best marathon runners.
Notable names include the Ethiopian trio of Tigist Abayechew, Kuftu Tahir and Rahma Tusa, while Kenyan Ruth Chebitok will also be challenging for honours.