For the umpteenth time, Malawi runners will participate in the Olympic Games on solidarity after the country’s four-athlete squad failed to meet qualifying standards during the Africa Senior Athletics Championships that ended on Sunday in South Africa.
No athlete has represented Malawi at the Olympics through qualification since 1972.
Middle-distance runner Benedicto Makumba stuttered in the semi-final of 800m race after crossing the finish line in 2:00.46 minutes, over 14 seconds behind qualification time while Happy Mcherenje was almost two minutes in 10 000m race. He finished 14th after clocking 29:59.94 minutes.
Mercy Malembo clocked 16:48.31 minutes, which was one minute 18 seconds behind qualification time and took position 11. Khumbo Makwakwa fell 17 seconds to make it in the 100-metre sprints, after clocking 11:42.00 minutes.
Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) also sent 22 athletes to the Southern Africa Junior Athletics Championship in Zambia two weeks ago but none met the qualifying standards.
AAM president Godfrey Phiri has attributed the setback to lack of proper preparations that are necessitated by poor funding.
“Our athletes camped for only four days and they trained on a bare ground instead of the recommended synthetic track. Athletics is the sport that can put the country on the map if given adequate resources,” said Phiri.
Athletics is the second sporting codes to stutter on the hunt for 2016 Rio Olympics scheduled for this August in Brazil after taekwondo. Judo did not go for the qualifiers due to lack of funds while swimming, tennis, weightlifting and archery are yet to take part in the qualifiers.
According to Malawi Olympic Committee’s (MOC) technical commission ex-officio John Kaputa they will have a board meeting in Lilongwe this Saturday to map the way forward about the Rio Olympics campaign.
“Nevertheless, if all the targeted sporting codes fail to qualify for Rio Olympics, they will represent us on solidarity or through tripartite invitation,” he said.