HARARE-TEAM Zimbabwe finally left for Botswana on Wednesday for the African Union Sports Council Region Five Under-20 Youth Games with most of the team leaders expressing confidence in their athletes.
The Games roar into life tomorrow and run until December 16 in Gaborone with countries from the Southern African region taking part.
The team, which had been scheduled to leave on Monday, left yesterday morning. They could not travel on Monday because of logistical issues.
Zimbabwe will fight for honours in athletics, athletics for the visually impaired, football (girls), netball, swimming and tennis.
At the previous edition in Angola in 2016, Zimbabwe came second behind South Africa with 96 medals. Athletics had 30 medals and athletics for visually impaired managed 27 medals.
Athletics coach Benson Samu is fancying their chances again this year when they compete with the rest of the region’s best athletes in the next 11 days.
“In Angola as athletics we got four gold medals. So our aim this time around is to win six to eight gold medals. I think we would have done ourselves great service by having those medals and it’s obtainable with the talent that we have right now,” said Samu.
Zimbabwe will be pinning their hopes on the likes of Dickson Kapadura, who was part of the team that competed at the Africa Senior Championships in Nigeria, in August.
In July he represented the country at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships.
The likes of Vimbai Maisvoreva and Masciline Watama have been to the World Under-18 Championships while Privilege Chikara was in Argentina for the Youth Olympic Games in October.
“That’s a positive for us because we have got athletes that are coming from the World Championships and the Youth (Olympic) Games. The experience they gained there is going to benefit us a lot because you can see and you can tell from the way they were pushing themselves in training, they know what is out there and they are hungry for success.
“And this is going to be a positive for us as a team,” said Samu.
Tennis has also not disappointed in the previous editions, making the finals most of the times and in 2016 they contributed five medals.
Team coach Linsent Chitiyo said South Africa is likely to give them a tough challenge while Botswana will be seeking to utilise their home advantage.
“Looking at the past experience that we have had, we have always been playing in the finals. We have always had a team event against South Africa in the finals and we are hoping that this time we are going to have a better edge against them.
“All the players are really eager to give their best and we actually had some practice sessions with the girls’ team because both of them were here.
“The only other team that I saw that is close to giving us competition in regards to this competition is Botswana. They have been participating in every tournament that we have had in Zimbabwe. They actually came for the ITF tournaments, they started preparing in January so we are looking at bridging that and then them being the hosts.
“But I know that we have got the capacity to do so,” said Chitiyo.
The limelight will be on Davis Cup team member Mehluli Sibanda who was at the Africa Tennis Nations Cup last month.
Swimming is also not to be left out as they have also done well for the country in the other editions as well as netball.
With swimmers such as Liam O’hara, Nomvula Mjimba and Ayman Khatoun in the team, there is every reasson to hope for another fruitful outing. Herald