In an attempt to encourage three southern African countries, including Malawi, to get into the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games through qualification, International Olympic Committee (IOC) has offered K500 million for athletes that will make the grade.
According to Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) president Oscar Kanjala, the sum is expected to be shared among Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe for Commonwealth Games’ preparations in accordance with the number of qualified athletes each country is going to produce.
The IOC dangled the same carrot in the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics but it was kept on hold following poor results.
The three countries have for several years been sending athletes to prestigious global competitions such as the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games on solidarity after failing to do so through qualification but the IOC would like to see an improvement, hence the motivational package.
“It is a tradition for IOC to finance athletes that have qualifed for major competitions such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. We missed out on the package prior to the 2016 Olympics but we have to fight hard this year to get our share of the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” said MOC president Oscar Kanjala.
He said it is for this reason that MOC has announced a new strategic plan that will help the country do well during qualifying games for the Commonwealth Games.
He said for MOC to come up with the 2017-2020 strategic plan, they undertook a broad consultative process; carefully selecting groups and individuals to represent a complete spectrum of stakeholders and owners of sport in Malawi and beyond.
“We have a strong belief that the implementation of this new plan will be handled with a better sense of understanding of what we want to achieve as a nation. We will demonstrate our total commitment towards achieving our objectives,” said Kanjala.
He said, among others, they plan to incorporate sport science as well as scientific research in areas such as athlete development, sports administration and competition management as a means of achieving excellence.
Kanjala said he believes the introduction of special high performance projects by MOC, in preparation for major competitions, will change the country’s fortunes.
“The process will involve prioritising sports with the highest potential for success. Our provision of training for technical officials, athletes and managers will pay greater attention to affiliates that will target major competitions,” he said.
Local athletes have not won a single medal from a prestigious global contest and have been participating in the Olympics on solidarity since their inaugural appearance in 1972.
A few years ago, MOC launched Bring-a-Medal campaign, which saw the body dangling K1 million for any athlete that would win a medal from major competitions, but it was all in vain as no athlete achieved the feat.
At the 2016 Olympics, the country’s five representatives, swimmers Brave Lifa and Amara Pinto, runners Kefas Chitsala and Tereza Master alongside archer David Areneo returned home empty-handed.
“We did not perform well in the past because we did not invest in our athletes. Another reason is that most of our affiliates did not prepare enough and they lacked focus. But now everything will change for the good of the country’s reputation,” said Kanjala.
Weightlifting and Body Building Association of Malawi (Wabm) president Richard Kuwali welcomed the development but he appealed to MOC to finance their training programme prior to the qualification games.
“We are having Commonwealth Games qualifications in Mauritius but for us to do well we need to prepare well. Next month, we are embarking on national championship to identify athletes and most of our allocation will be spent on that,” Kuwali said.
“We will approach MOC to finance our athletes so that they get good training ahead of the qualification games. It should not be after qualification only,” said Kuwali.
Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) general secretary Frank Chitembeya, whose body will send athletes to Uganda for qualification games in June, said with the latest arrangements MOC has made, things will be easier for them to produce a qualified athlete.
“The offer will enable us to fulfil the much-awaited achievement of sending qualified athletes to major global events,” Chitembeya said. n