Senior Sports Reporter
ORGANISERS of the Bonaqua Africa Triathlon Cup are optimistic of a successful event again this year despite a decrease in the number of participants in the elite level.
The event is scheduled for February 17 at the Troutbeck Resort in Nyanga.
Being an Olympic year, event director Rick Fulton said they had hoped for a huge turnout as athletes aim to accumulate points towards qualification for the Games.
“Unfortunately the level of numbers of elite athletes that we were hoping to attract given that we are within the Olympic qualification period has not worked.
“The major fall back for this has been the cholera epidemic in the region. We have had a lot of athletes entering the race and then take themselves out because of the cholera scare which really is unfortunate.
“We have tried to be positive about it with statements on World Triathlon websites. But unfortunately it has had an impact on the athletes’ entries.”
There has been a decline in the number of cholera cases over the past weeks due to interventions being rolled out by the Government.
“I am, however, pleased to announce that we will have athletes from Austria, Algeria, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mauritius, Netherlands, Namibia, Romania, South Africa, Tunisia, the UAE and Zimbabwe.
“Both at elite and junior level, we will probably have a total of 30 elite and junior athletes, which is less than last year,” said Fulton.
There were 51 entries for elite and junior athletes last year.
Andie Kuipers will represent Zimbabwe in the elite women. Last year Zimbabwe was not represented at the elite level.
“I am really happy to be here. It’s been four years since the last time I raced at Troutbeck. One of the reasons I deferred my semester from university was to come and do Troutbeck as well as a few more races to try and qualify for the (Olympic) Games,” said Kuipers.
The Africa Cup runs concurrently with the Africa Junior Cup and the hosts will also have some juniors competing.
The event has over the years developed to become a multi-sport festival with a number of other events making part of the programme on the day. A trail run has been introduced this year.
Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture Minister, Kirsty Coventry, who was the guest of honour at yesterday’s launch of the event, applauded Triathlon Zimbabwe and the team involved in organising the event for the commitment and professionalism they have displayed over the years.
“This event started as a concept in 2007 and there were four events around Africa and now I am told there are 15 African Cups. So the sport across the continent is growing, the sport within the Olympic movement is getting stronger and stronger.
“And this comes back down to national federations being run with good governance, good people that want to develop their sport with sponsors that can see that. That’s why there are so many sponsors sitting in this room,” said Minister Coventry.
She urged other national associations to take a leaf from Triathlon Zimbabwe on good governance and organisation of international events which has seen them earning the confidence of the various sponsors.
She also assured participants of a safe environment.
“My request to international athletes is please we would never ever put you in an environment that is not safe. The environment is very safe and we are looking forward to a successful event.”
Triathlon Zimbabwe vice president, Pamela Fulton, paid tribute to all those involved in the organisation of the event and the various sponsors for supporting the event.
Speaking on behalf of title sponsors Coca-Cola, trade marketing manager at Schweppes, Penelope Sanyauke, acknowledged the various sponsors that support the event and the team at Triathlon Zimbabwe.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the team at Triathlon Zimbabwe for their exceptional professionalism and unyielding dedication at this reputable sporting event. They have set an unparalleled standard in the promotion of triathlon as a conduit for fitness and team spirit that has made substantial contribution to Zimbabwe sports culture,” said Sanyauke.
Yesterday’s launch was also attended by the director sport and recreation in the Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Eugenia Chidhakwa, Sports Commission director general, Elta Nengomasha, Zimbabwe Olympic Committee president, Thabani Gonye, and representatives of the various corporates supporting the event.
Sponsors of the Bonaqua Africa Triathlon Cup include title sponsors Coca-Cola through their Bonaqua water brand, Cimas iGo, CFAO, Rooney’s Events, African Sun, Troutbeck Resort, Ecocash, Simbisa Brands and MCM Legal.