Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) has trimmed the squad that will travel to Durban, South Africa, this Sunday for a week-long Africa Senior Athletics Championships from June 22 to 26.
At least 12 athletes, identified through the National Track and Field Championships in Lilongwe last weekend, were expected to travel to South Africa by road through Mozambique, but AAM general secretary Frank Chitembeya told The Nation on Tuesday that the number has been reduced to four.
“Due to the on-going conflict in Mozambique, it would be risky to travel to South Africa by road and the only option is to fly our athletes. But considering that air-tickets are expensive, we have decided to trim the squad from 12 to four so that expenditure should tally with our budget for the international event,” Chitembeya said.
This means it is only Happy Ndacha Mcherenje (10 000-metre ), Khumbo Makwakwa (100-metres), Benedicto Makumba (800-metre ) and Mercy Malembo (5 000-metre ), who will carry the country’s flag in South Africa under national coach John Mwathiwa.
Among the four, only Mcherenje has ever represented the country at international events in the seniors’ category. He did it in the last three contests but he has not been doing well.
“This time around I have improved my performance and I am confident that I will finish among the top-three runners in the 10 000-metre race,” said Mcherenje.
During the National Track and Field Championship last weekend, 20 junior athletes were identified for the Southern Africa Junior Championship to be held between this weekend in Lusaka, Zambia.
The athletes that will travel to Zambia are Ethel Manyunya, Chikondi Manase, Okafor Chioma, Etrida Ganizani, Dorothy Gawani, Cecilia Mhango, Nalicy Chirwa, Tamandani Banda, Robin Banda, Innocent Bashati, Ganizani Marko, Raymond Kaira, Frank Chitembeya Jnr, Leo Chikhwaza, Safiel Chitedze, Juma Wilson, Abina Chinga, George Jana Junior, Alick Rajab and Gift Kawale.
This is the first time AAM is sending a big number of athletes to an international event, so as to increase the country’s chances of qualifying for Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil. According to Chitembeya, they are tired of sending flag carriers to such prestigious global events on solidarity.