Senior male athletes Kefasi Chitsala, Chauncy Master, Grevazio Mpani and Harry Sichali failed to break into the top-50 bracket at the 2017 International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships in Uganda on Sunday.
However, their performance has impressed Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) president Godfrey Phiri, who has praised them for improving their finishing times despite fatigue after travelling by road for three-days due to financial constraints.
Chitsala was the country’s best performer in the senior men’s 10 kilometre (km) race after crossing the finish line in 31:16 minutes to take position 55 out of 146 competitors. This was almost three minutes behind eventual champion Kenyan Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor.
Master took position 72 in 31:50 minutes while Mpani and Sichali were on positions 80 and 103 in 32:05 minutes and 33:26 minutes, respectively. Malawian sole female flag carrier Cecilia Mhango did not start in the 10km Under-20 women’s race after being diagnosed with Malaria.
But Phiri said they were particularly impressed with the performance of Chitsala, Master and Mpani because despite their positions, they finished within the qualifying standards for other global events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games. Qualifying time for these two events in 10km race is 32:25 minutes.
“This shows that our athletes can perform even better if they get full support from stakeholders. They were competing against world-class athletes despite the challenges they experienced prior to the event yet they still managed to put up a gallant fight,” he said.
During local camping prior to their departure for Uganda last week, some of the local athletes were reportedly lodging at the house of AAM general secretary Frank Chitembeya in Lilongwe as a cost-cutting measure due to inadequate funds. AAM also relied on a K200 000 bail-out package to necessitate Mpani’s participation.
The athletes could not be reached for their comment yesterday as they were said to be in transit. No Malawian athlete has ever qualified for Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games. n