Zimbabwe: Anxious Wait Over As Purcell-Gilpin Earns Olympic Berth

A seven-month wait to find out if one has made it to the Olympics is hard enough, but national rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin's wait was made tougher by having to wait almost two years to realise his dream of representing Zimbabwe at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Purcell-Gilpin initially secured Zimbabwe a boat for Tokyo 2020, winning silver in the men's single scull at the African Olympic Qualification Regatta in Tunis in November, 2019.

The 26-year-old former St George's College student and University of Birmingham graduate still had to go through national trials, which had been scheduled for April, 2020 to determine that would represent Zimbabwe in Tokyo.

Purcell-Gilpin's plans, however, went up in smoke as he had to endure a long wait due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the sporting world to a grinding halt and ultimately led to the postponement of the international multi-sport event that was scheduled to start in July last year.

The wait finally ended last week when the Rowing Association of Zimbabwe (RAZ) confirmed Purcell-Gilpin as the nation's representative, making him the first local athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are scheduled for July 23 to August 8.

It was a case of second time luck for Purcell-Gilplin, who secured a boat for Zimbabwe ahead of the 2016 Olympics before missing out on the final national selection.

"It's been an awesome road with plenty of ups and downs, even a couple of surgeries to get to this point. In 2016 I came close, but wasn't quite fast enough. In 2019 I qualified the boat and since then I have been working towards the Zimbabwe internal selection, which I am now pleased to say is over and this time I was fast enough," an elated Purcell-Gilpin said on Instagram after his Olympic berth was confirmed last week.

Purcell-Gilpin described the opportunity to represent Zimbabwe at the Tokyo Games as a huge honour while reflecting on some of the obstacles he had to clear to make his dream a reality.

"I am so excited and honoured to be representing Zimbabwe at the games. Training at this level from a 'developing nation' like Zim, which lacks the capacity to support its athletes in the same way that many of the 'bigger nations' can, whilst you have to find a way to make a plan for just about everything yourself and find a coach who is willing to spend countless hours with you... usually to their own financial detriment, has opened my eyes to so much more than just trying to make a boat move fast."

He added: "I have had a lot of fun and learnt so much about sportsmanship, compassion, kindness, generosity and love from those around me, who have made this journey so fulfilling and worthwhile. So many people have had an impact on me along the way and I am so grateful for it."

The gifted rower, who is married to two-time Olympian Micheen Thornycroft, promised to perform to the best of his abilities in Tokyo, where he will come up against some of the world's big names in the sport.

"I may not be the fastest out there but I will continue to put every ounce of myself into being the best athlete and sportsman I can be. I look forward to holding the Zim-flag high in Tokyo.

"Thank you all for believing in me and helping me make this happen."

Purcell-Gilpin last week launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for further training and preparation camps ahead of the Olympic Games.

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