Zimbabweâ€™s sporting ambassadors who excelled at the 10th All Africa Games in Maputo received due recognition when Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, President Robert Mugabe hosted the medalists and participants at State House.
With each athlete receiving US$5 000 for every gold medal, Zimbabweâ€™s swimming icon, Kirsty Coventry, whose prize money was received on her behalf by Deputy Minister of Sport, Art and Culture, Cde Lazarus Dokora, received US$20 000 after scooping 4 gold medals at the recently ended African sports showpiece.Tennis sensation, Takanyi Garanâ€™anga also claimed US$5 000 for a gold medal, a feat that was also achieved by Chess player, Robert Gwaze.
Nichole Horn who scooped silver in the 50 and 100 metre freestyle events as well as in 3 relay events, walked away US$15 000 richer after silver medalists received US$3000.
15 year old rising swimmer, Samantha Welch bagged US$11 000 after scooping 3 silvers and 1 bronze.
The other individual prize went to Nyaradzai Tagarira who scooped silver in the athlete with a disability category.
Speaking shortly before handing over prizes to athletes, President Mugabe expressed satisfaction with the effort put in by Team Zimbabwe.
â€œOur team performed well at these games and was ranked the 13th best performing team. Out of 44 African countries, coming 13th is not bad, we still can do better. I want to say to our team congratulations on a well-taken challenge, a commendable performance indeed,â€ said the President.
Despite applauding Team Zimbabwe for finishing 13th on the medals table, President Mugabe however encouraged other athletes that did not scoop any medals to emulate the commitment and hard work illustrated by Kirsty Coventry and other gold medal winners.
Meanwhile, President Mugabe has called for the establishment of a national sport strategy to enhance the development of sport in the country.
With the team acquitting itself well in Maputo despite resource constraints, Cde Mugabe said the sport strategy will ensure investment in sport is consistent with identified talents and priorities.
“There is need for a national sport strategy and as a nation, we need to identify areas that need improvement and then make sure that our investment in sport is consistent with the identified areas of priority,” said President Mugabe.
He said government recognises that Zimbabwe has great potential to excel beyond the current achievements in sport with some areas requiring special attention.
Cde Mugabe called for a change of mind set among Zimbabweans so that sport is accepted in the same way as other disciplines such as mathematics, science and medicine where people earn a living from.
President Mugabe also called on the nation to institute continuous training regimes in between competitions as opposed to training shortly before the sporting event, adding that preparations for the 2015 All Africa Games should start now with set targets.
Turning to the perennial issue of lack of funding in sport, President Mugabe said central government will need to review its funding model for sport in order to avoid a situation where funds for the different national teams are provided on the eve of the competition.
He called upon the corporate sector to partner government in developing sport in the country.
Present at the reception to receive and honour the All Africa Games team were Vice President Joice Mujuru, Vice President John Landa Nkomo, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Deputy Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, Cde Lazarus Dokora, Deputy Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ms Jessie Majome, Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda among other dignitaries.
It is not the first time President Mugabe has rewarded athletes that would have excelled for the country, with comrades marathon winner Stephen Muzhingi, Zimbabwean swimming queen Kirsty Coventry, the Mighty Warriors and the Zimbabwe Under 20 rugby team all honoured for excelling.
Zimbabwe scooped 6 gold medals, 7 silver and 2 bronze to claim a total of 15 medals at the All Africa Games where Zimbabwe ended 13th on the medals table.
The 10th edition of the All Africa Games was held in Maputo between the 3rd and the 18th of this month.