The forgotten sports heroes

Shelly Guni

Many people wonder what the ideal ingredients for heroism are.

Well, there is no set formula for heroism; it is in the mind of the beholder.

Nevertheless, athletics has taught us over the years that heroes come in all forms and sizes and may be
found anywhere.

Sport has expressly shown over and time again that heroes have one of the physiognomies listed below:
they have a special talent, a strong moral code, take big risks, and make sacrifices.

All these characteristics can be found in our everyday sports heroes – and therefore again affirms that
sport has the power to inspire, unite, uplift, empower and break racial and tribal boundaries wherever
they may have existed.

But are our past and present sports heroes well celebrated and recognised as they should?

Local sports consultant and renowned sports analyst Mthulisi Nyathi strongly believes that while
governments the world over are appreciated for giving sports heroes some sort of recognition, such as
naming streets and sports venues after them, more still needs to be done to look after their wellbeing.

Nyathi says recognising sports heroes should not just be reduced to nine-day wonder honours but
should rather come with lifelong benefits, such as housing, medical care, education, business
opportunities, sports pension and training opportunities.

“Sport is a catalyst for development at national and individual levels. It creates socio-economic benefits
in society. Sports heroes inspire the youth to aim to achieve the impossible. They create hope where
there is despair.

They unite the nation regardless of social, religious, economic, gender and political differences. Sports heroes inspire the youth to work for the future, work hard and succeed – both locally and internationally,” says Nyathi.

He added that the newfound success of marathon sensations Issac Mpofu and Mosses Tarakinyu as well as boxer, Kudakwashe Chiwandire should inspire all Zimbabweans to revisit policies and various safety nets currently accorded to local sports heroes, saying more long-term benefits for the country’s sports icons should be the order of the day going into the future.

“In Zimbabwe, sports heroes are temporarily celebrated when they win accolades and very easily
forgotten. They are not supported during their careers, not recognised enough for their contribution.
This is because the country does not see the importance of sport in nation building.

“It is my wish that the success of Mpofu and Tarakinyu will create a new culture of consistently recognising and celebrating our own. We need to do more for our sports heroes while they are alive. They bring joy to all of us.”

Nyathi added that sports heroes are an important cog of any society and play a vital role of unity in any
process of nation building and national unity.

He explained that a country can only give birth to productive citizens if the core foundation is well
supported by inspiring and well looked after sports heroes who are ready to share knowledge and mold
the next generation.

“But as far as getting the recognition they deserve,”

He emphasised that the country should build on that momentum when recognising and rewarding
sports heroes.

Mpofu put up a good performance at the World Athletics Championships in the United States of
America to finish in the top 10 of the men’s marathon and in the process shatter Zimbabwe’s eight-year

The long distance runner came 10th in a time of 2 hours 7 minutes 57 seconds to beat the previous
national record that stood at 2 hours 9 minutes 52 seconds, set by Cuthbert Nyasango in 2014.

Tarakinyu, on the other hand, won the Two Oceans marathon in April, having also won many other local

Chiwandire is the first female boxer to challenge for the World Boxing Council (WBC) gold title after
successfully defending her WBC interim title last month.

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