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Hunting for gold in Gold Coast

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Once again, the Commonwealth family is gearing up for medals at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast City, Australia.

The competition runs from April 4 to 15, 2018, in the south east of the Australian state of Queensland and will be the fifth occasion that the games have been played there.

Malawi, being part of the Commonwealth family, has been sending athletes to the event largely on solidarity, as producing competitors who meet the qualifying standards, has been a tall order.

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Analysts point at the lack of adequate preparations for Malawi’s failure to win medals, let alone qualify for the games.

Suggestions have been made on the need for the country’s sports bodies to start preparing their athletes well ahead of time.

Such calls seem to have been falling on deaf ears as the country’s ambassadors at the games continue to compete on such a big stage with shoddy preparations.

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Sports administrators have been quick to point at the lack of resources for the country’s failure to win medals at world competitions.

Proposals to begin training the athletes with, at least, a year to go before the games have always hit a snag because of lack of money.

This leaves one wondering whether any of the country’s athletes will ever make it to the podium, with ‘Oh God Bless Our Land of Malawi’ blaring through the stadium public address system while the national flag, in its distinct colours of red, black and green, towers over the Malawian winner.

One of the sports disciplines with the potential to win medals for Malawi is netball. The country’s national netball team, the Queens, has always been a regular traveller to the event.

Having won bronze at last year’s Fast5 World Netball Series, the Queens should be beaming with confidence on their prospects of shining in Australia.

Netball Association of Malawi General Secretary, Carol Bapu, believes that the Queens are capable of winning a medal at the games if the Fast5 performance is anything to go by.

“If we had money in the bag,, we would have been calling our players into camp training from time to time in readiness for the games. But you know how difficult it is. So without money, there is nothing we can do,” Bapu says.

In the absence of tailor-made training programmes for the games, Bapu pins her hopes on this year’s Fast5 tournament, scheduled to take place at the end of October in Australia.

The Queens will then fly to England in the following month, according to Bapu, for test matches with the team they sensationally defeated to win bronze at the Fast5 World Netball Series.

“We are depending on the two tournaments to give us a good measure of preparations for the Commonwealth Games. The good thing is that we will be meeting teams that matter in the world of netball. This gives us some relief,” Bapu says.

She says Nam’s intention is to organise more friendly games for the Queens before leaving for Australia but the plans are likely to fall through because of monetary constraints.

Malawi Boxing Association President, Justice Katika, says with funding problems, his association is only depending on Malawi Olympic Committee (Moc) mini-Olympic Games to be played on October 14 in Lilongwe.

“Other than the mini-Olympics, we will just be banking on local tournaments. We do not have funding that can support such preparations,” Katika says.

Athletics Association of Malawi General Secretary, Frank Chitembeya, says his association has been asked by Moc to submit names of athletes with the potential of making it to the games based on their performance.

Chitembeya says the list will be ready for submission soon to kick-start the preparations.

“It is good that our athletes have been active this year both locally and internationally. It would have been difficult if they were just staying idle. But knowing that there will be Commonwealth Games next year, we deliberately made it possible for them to take part in both local and international competitions,” Chitembeya says.

Moc General Secretary, Jappie Mhango, says Malawi takes the Commonwealth Games seriously with the hope that success will be achieved one day.

He says Moc has been working with various sports associations to ensure that they compete in major events ahead of the Games.

“It is important for athletes to compete against the best in the world so that they gauge their performances,” Mhango says, adding that the mini Olympics in Lilongwe will also help to fine tune athletes.

But with the Commonwealth Games only seven months away, Malawi is racing against time. There is great need to wake up and not sleep on the job.

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