Done to a turn. Stern Lifa and Asimenye Simwaka have made history by becoming the first local athletes to qualify for African Senior Championship on merit.
The duo made the grade after their stellar show at the All Corners Track and Field event at Heroes Stadium in Lusaka, Zambia at the weekend.
The continental athletics showpiece will be staged in Algeria in June this year and will also act as a qualifier for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Lifa won bronze in 100 metres (m) after clocking 10.36 seconds to beat his previous personal best of 10.58 seconds. The qualification time for the Algiers event is 10.44.
Simwaka, 22, also clinched bronze in 400m after clocking 52.59 and the qualifying standard is 54.6.
To add extra spice, Simwaka, who also plays for Malawi Women’s National Football Team, has broken the national record for 400m previously held by Ambwene Simukonda (54.32).
The duo is also within touching distance of qualifying for Olympics whose standard qualification time for 100m (women) is 10.05 and 51.35 for 100m (men).
In an interview from Zambia yesterday, the two athletes said their focus is now on qualifying for Olympics.
Lifa, 21, said: “I am very excited to be one of the first two Malawian athletes to qualify for Senior African Championship on merit, but I won’t relax because my eyes are set on qualifying for Olympics and there can be no better platform than the Algiers event.”
On her part, Simwaka said: “I feel very proud to have achieved this in only my second international tournament, but I am not done yet. I also want to become the first female Malawian athlete to qualify for Olympics.
“I am not far off. I just have to engage an extra gear. I am confident it will be done.”
Mercy Malembo also clinched bronze in 1 500m after clocking 4.56.24, beating her previous record of 5.00.00 while Sunganani Namakonje finished seventh in 800m race after clocking 2.38.44.
Allan Chirwa finished sixth in 800m after clocking 1.57.77.
Coach Pachisi Nyasulu said: “I am delighted that some of the athletes have made history here by qualifying for Algiers. It shows that we are on the right track because our athletes’ performance has been awesome and we are hoping that in the remaining qualifiers, they will seal Olympics qualification.
“We have the Gaborone International Meet coming up on April 23 and then the Algiers Championship in June. So, we are hoping that they will punch their tickets to the Olympics.”
Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) president Jappie Mhango hailed the athletes for giving out their best.
He said: “We are delighted that for a change, our athletes will not be competing at the Senior African Championship on solidarity but on merit.
“They have done the nation proud and what remains now is for them to work extra harder so that they qualify for Olympics.”