Team Malawi left the country in two groups promising that the country’s 36-year wait for another Commonwealth Games medal would be over at the end of the 2022 event in Birmingham, England.
However, events on the ground suggest that Malawi’s drought could be extended as most athletes are falling short of winning standards ahead of the games slated to run from July 28 to August 8, Malawi News Sport can reveal.
Prior to the team’s departure, Malawi’s Chef de Mission to the Games Henry Sakala, who is also Malawi Olympic Committee (Moc) Treasurer, told our sister paper The Daily Times that Team Malawi was ready to rumble.
“This time, we have no tourists and everybody looks in shape. I am very confident that Malawi will bring [medals] back home,” Sakala told our sister paper.
Apparently, Sakala contradicted what he told the local media last month, when he blamed local associations for relying on Moc to prepare for the games, which happen every four years.
“As coordinators of the Malawi team, it is our expectation that these codes, especially netball as a team sport, would by now be engaging in intensive preparations at association level as they wait for the final camping later on.
“By now, they could have found various sponsors to help them with the tune-ups. They could approach a hotel to support them as regards to accommodation and probably a juice making company for some refreshments. They should be proactive and not just wait for Moc or government,” Sakala told the Nation on April 29, 2022.
Sakala made the remarks after some sport associations and analysts expressed doubt over Team Malawi’s chances of winning medals following a purported casual approach to preparations.
It is just a matter of weeks for the nation to realise that Sakala’s rhetoric, to the effect that Team Malawi had no passengers, journeymen and tourists in its delegation was meant to blind stakeholders.
On the Games’ overall standings, Team Malawi is currently ranked 57 out 61 countries, with three medals, having made its debut in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Ironically, boxers have won all of Malawi’s three Commonwealth Games’ medals, all bronzes, with the last podium finish coming in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1986, when Lyton Mphande and Kondowe ended third in their respective division contests.
Boxer Tatu Chionga won Malawi’s first Commonwealth Games medal during the country’s debut in 1970.
The task of breaking Team Malawi’s 36-year drought of medals at the Games, which are scheduled for July 28 to August 8 2022, rests on athletes drawn from netball, athletics, judo, boxing and swimming.
In athletics, the performance of Asimenye Simwaka and Stern Liffa has been encouraging but they lag behind, in terms of standard-B qualifying standards.
In 100m, Liffa set a new personal best at 10:33 but is not anywhere near then 2018 Commonwealth Games gold winner.
Akani Simbine of South Africa won the gold medal, running a time of 10:03 in the final.
In 200m, Liffa set his personal best record at 20:88 from 21:92. Still more, that is not good enough to the one which was set in 2018.
Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago emerged winner having posted 20:12.
Turning to Simwaka, her personal best in 400m is at 52:9 whereas in 200m it is at 22:97.
She faces a daunting task to close in on Amantle Montsho of Botswana, who won the 400m at 50:15, and Shaunae Miller-Uibo of Bahamas, who won the 200m at 22:09.
On the other hand, the Malawi National Netball Team is reputed as the pride of the nation, but the Queens have never gone beyond position five.
Currently seventh ranked, the Queens are enduring a bad spell, having fallen behind fifth ranked South Africa.
The Queens have been embroiled in off-court controversy, with coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa accusing Netball Association of Malawi of interfering in matters related to the squad.
The coach has also come under attack for reportedly favouring some players to be in the team.
In terms of boxing, there was also selection headache, as some promising boxers have been left out, apparently at a time boxing officials have been debating on the issue of which city, between Blantyre and Lilongwe, has good boxers.
Analysts have since warned against having high expectations over Team Malawi’s chances of winning and getting medals at the Games.
Analyst George Kaudza- Masina had no kind words for associations that always depend on Moc and the government through Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS).
“This has always been the norm as associations have always been over-reliant on Moc and MNCS, which should not be the case.
“The unfortunate part is that most of these associations are briefcase organisations which don’t command the respect of sponsors,” he said.
Masina also hit at Moc for blaming its affiliates after they failed to thoroughly prepare for the Games due to limited resources.
“At the same time, Moc, as a body, is disorganised and depends on alms from its mother body without courting other financiers.
“It’s naive for Moc to be blaming associations such as Nam, Judo, Maba for failing to prepare their athletes. These associations are the ones that make Moc and it is Moc itself which is more to blame for failing to monitor the associations over the years as Commonwealth Games are not an annual event,” he said.
Masina asked Moc to develop a clear calendar, with guidelines on the identification of athletes, and set a monitoring framework.
“This blame game could not have been there. In other countries, athletes that are set to compete in future Games are currently being trained and under observation. It is made clear to the associations on the dictates of Commonwealth Games’ preparations.