ONE of the major talking points of the 2020 Olympic Games was the emergence of 17-year-old Donata Katai as a swimmer of international class.
Katai might not have won a medal or reached the final of the 100 metres backstroke, but the little she showed the world was enough to turn the globe’s attention to Zimbabwe.
In fact, the schoolgirl did not perform the way she would have wanted to because she did not prepare fully for a competition of such magnitude due to inadequate funds.
The question is: What do we do with this wonder kid now that the 2020 Olympic show is over, at least for Zimbabwe? Should we — as we always do — just forget about her and then start all over again when the 2024 Olympic show comes?
Remember, how years back in the 80s we lost a potential Olympic 800m medal winner when the country failed to make the most out of Melford Homela who had shone at the World Junior Athletics Championships?
Shouldn’t we this time around make things right by taking this opportunity and the four years to come to polish this Katai diamond and then reap the rewards of our investment at Paris 2024?
Can’t we also have a government sports fund to support our top young athletes like Katai and 24-year-old Peter Wetzlar, to undertake regular international participation to build them for major competitions like the Fina World Championships and the Olympic Games?
That is an assignment for the huge contingent of government officials that accompanied the 2020 Olympic Games team to justify why they were in Tokyo in the first place.
A lot was said about that huge group of officials in comparison to the small band of athletes and their end of Olympic Games report would be of interest to the nation that funded their trip.
The government has always admitted that they are not doing enough for sport, but that has always ended there and it is now up to those who were in Japan to help change that attitude.
At one time, it was thought that the coming-in of a sportsperson, Kirsty Coventry, as sports minister would improve things, but sadly not much has changed.
Without sounding jealousy, there are sectors which are receiving too much from the government coffers while sport continues to be neglected yet results are expected at the same time.
The experience of the 2020 Olympic Games and those before them in 2016 should be enough to warrant a change of that attitude.
Why should Zimbabwe always be the bridesmaid of the Olympic Games?
The point here is that our athletes will continue to be the punching bags or the fall guys of the international sporting world as long as the government continues to ignore its demands.
From the outset, the 2024 Olympic Games might look far away, but in reality they are not. As we build up for Paris 2024, the starting point should be for the government through its arms to adopt Katai and Wetzlar as well.
There are many from within this country and others from the outside world who believe that given everything she requires to carry out her sports duties, Katai is the next Zimbabwean superstar.
Who can dispute that after what she has done so far, in 2024 she could force the world to sing the Zimbabwe national anthem?
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