If Malawi had to award 2017 top-10 minority sports disciplines in terms of performance at international events, then athletics and draughts would top the list.
Athletics would deserve the feat following the success story of female runners Mercy Malembo and Cecilia Mhango, alongside Kefas Kasteni, at the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Southern Region Seniors Championship in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Malembo won gold in 1 500-metres while Mhango and Kasteni claimed silver medals. Malawi sent 13 athletes to the event. The others were Boniface Phiri, Yamikani Chiumia, Frank Chitembeya Junior, Benedict Makumba, Chancy Master, Nalicy Chirwa, Grevazio Mpani, Abina Tchinga, Happy Ndacha Mcherenje and Harry Sichali.
It was for this achievement that Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) decided to maintain the current squad ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
“We are very much impressed with the current squad because they managed to win medals against all odds despite financial constraints,” said AAM president Godfrey Phiri.
With the results, Mhango and Kasteni did not only do the country proud but also successfully banished their personal-performance demons that tormented them in their recent international events.
Earlier, Mhango emerged 97th in the 108-contestants ladies’ section at the 2017 World Cross Country Championship in Kampala, Uganda, while Kasteni finished 55th out of 132 runners.
Draughts also raised Malawi’s flag high on the international stage to the effect of helping the country win hosting rights of the 2018 African Draughts-64 Championship for the second time in three years.
All this was as a result of impressive individual performance of Madalitso Thom Baba at the 2017 World Draughts Championship in Russia, where he emerged as the best African player.
Enock Makoka-Banda achieved a similar feat in 2015. However, Malawi lost the hosting rights of the inaugural continental championship to Zambia due to failure to meet a minimum budget of K4 million.
This time around, Association of Draughts in Malawi (Adma) general secretary Suzgo Nkhoma said they are confident that the corporate world and the government would raise the K7 million needed to host the second edition of the African Championship between July 9 and 14.
As hosts of the 10-nation competition, Malawi is supposed to pay for food and accommodation to the Africa Draughts Federation (ADF) president, vice-president, secretary-general, secretary for international affairs, treasurer and a single player from each participating country, including the reigning African champion grandmaster (GM) Richard Mwamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In golf, Malawi’s sole professional Paul Chidale also stood up to be counted after participating in two tournaments—the Zimbabwe Pro-AM Tour and the Tanzania Open.
All in all, the outstanding performance of athletes and draughts players in 2017 was enough proof that the country can do much better in minority sports with a good corporate and government support, intensive training and strong will power.