Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE have since 1980 managed to send a team to the Olympic Games and this year they will once again be among the countries that will be taking part at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
But as the nation looks forward to watch Team Zimbabwe competing, there is also need to reflect on how the country has fared at the Games and what to expect from the upcoming Games, which will be officially opened on Friday.
The world's multi-sport showpiece had to be rescheduled to this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and will run until August 8.
Zimbabwe is fielding five athletes in athletics, rowing, swimming and golf. It's the smallest team since 1980 and hopes of picking a medal at the Tokyo Games are very slim considering some of the team members struggled to reach the qualifying mark.
Zimbabwe picked one medal in 1980 at the Moscow Games in Russia, three in 2004 at the Athens Games in Greece and four at the Beijing Games in 2008 before experiencing a barren run in 2012 at the London Games in England and 2016 at the Rio Games in Brazil.
Cuthbert Nyasango, who represented the country at the 2008 in 10 000m, and marathon in the 2012 and 2016 Games, said the country is lagging behind in several areas.
He had one of the best performances at the London Games in 2012 when he came seventh in the men's marathon event.
"I think the most important thing is the lack of support, financial support. Going to the Olympics needs a lot of resources. It helps you (as an athlete) to have the best people around you to be in a better position to make the top 10, top five. We have talent in Zimbabwe but the problem is resources.
"The other thing is lack of proper planning from sports administrators. We should start now preparing for 2024. Both national federations and key stakeholders tend to talk about the Olympics in the Olympic year.
"We must have a short-term, mid and long-term development plan, to say what are we going to do for 2024, 2028, 2032, who are the athletes for 2024, 2028 and 2032," said Nyasango.
Nyasango, now the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee Athletes Commission chairperson, said as long as the country does not have a proper system in place, it's difficult to expect much at the Olympic Games.
"We don't have a plan, we don't have a system that works . . . We don't have a continuous system.
"If you go to Europe, athletes they are targetting will be in High Performance Centres, where they have access to sport scientists, they are monitored over the years.
"But for us we do not have a known talent identification system as a country, not as associations. We must have a system to say when it comes to the Olympic Games, this is the standard that applies across all sporting disciplines," said Nyasango.
Seasoned administrator and chef de mission to the 2016 Games, Titus Zvomuya, said the Covid-19 pandemic had psychological bearing on both qualification and preparation for the upcoming Tokyo Games.
"Had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic I am confident that our total number at this year's Tokyo Games would have been much higher than it is.
"However, we should not look back and curse ourselves for having a small team at this year's edition, but rather focus our energies and resources on preparing for the next editions.
"We do need to take a scientific approach towards talent identification and nurturing and infuse components like LTAD (Long-Term Athlete Development), sports medicine, sports science, sports nutrition and sports psychology, among others, into all our sports development programmes.
"I believe as a country, we can do more in terms of ensuring that our athletes qualify for the next editions and hopefully win medals for us.
"There is a greater need now than ever before for the nation to come up with a holistic national development sports strategy with input from all the key stakeholders with clear goals and milestones," said Zvomuya.
He said focus should be on both athlete and technical officials development.