In a move that could uplift domestic athletics, world athletics body Iaaf has offered the Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) a synthetic running track worth $320 000 (over K100 million) at current exchange rates.
AAM president Godfrey Phiri and general secretary Frank Chitembeya disclosed this on Thursday, two days after returning from the International Athletics Associations Federation (Iaaf) congress in Russia.
Iaaf is ready to send AAM the first allocation of $160 000 (K51 million), Chitembeya said, adding that the mother athletics body has also challenged AAM that it can access $50 000 (K16 million) funding if it introduces a schools athletics programme.
For Malawi to access funding for the track, AAM has to acquire a piece of land from Malawi Government and develop it. Thereafter, an Iaaf team will lay the track.
“The $160 000 is readily available for us to access when we are ready. We have between now and next year to access it. All Iaaf wants is for government to meet half way the cost of laying the track by providing us a piece of land and developing it,” Phiri explained.
Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre already has a synthetic pitch, but Iaaf, which has records of all the venues in Malawi, ruled out the giant arena because it is for public use and also because the circumference is small, Phiri said on Thursday.
Chirunga Stadium in Zomba was also rated as suitable for the track, but Iaaf noted that the facility belongs to the University of Malawi, leaving AAM with the Kamuzu Institute of Sports as a last option.
“Our athletes only have a feel of the synthetic running track when participating in international competitions. They go there with times achieved on [ordinary pitches] and struggle as their counterparts, who are used to synthetic tracks cruise,” said Phiri.
Fresh from World Athletics Championship in Russia, up-and-coming runner Grevazio Mpani yesterday shared Phiri’s observation, noting that training on clay pitch then competing on “a carpet affects speed and endurance as the grip is different.”
In the absence of the track, Malawi cannot host track and field events, but only road races and cross country races.
Internet information says on synthetic athletic tracks, “athletes can comfortably compete in bad weather without loss in performance.”