BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
FOR a second year running sport in Zimbabwe was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant intermittent lockdowns and travel restrictions that made participation on the international stage difficult.
But in spite of the difficult environment, some Zimbabwean athletes and teams managed to fly the country’s flag with distinction as well as achieve personal milestones in their careers.
And like every season, there are also athletes and teams that experience an underwhelming and forgettable season.
As the curtains come down on yet another rollercoaster sporting season The Sports Hub looks at some of the country’s best performers and the villains.
Athlete of the season: Scott Vincent
Top professional golfer Scott Vincent had a wonderful season on the fairways and one of the highlights of his is finishing 16th at the Tokyo Olympics in July.
Vincent also won twice on the Japan Golf Tour this season clinching the ANA Open and the Sansan KBC Augusta on August 29 and September 19 respectively.
The 29-year-old also achieved a runner-up finish and seven top 10s on the Japan Golf Tour this season to finish 11th on the Japan Tour’s money list with earnings totalling over $700 000 this year.
Vincent has been the biggest sports star for in 2021 while others such Wilfred Mashaya has done extremely well in karate-winning a multiple of virtual competitions this year alone. Cricketer Blessing Muzarabani began the year by scooping the ESPN Cricinfo Men’s ODI bowling performance of the year for 2020. In June he became the first Zimbabwean to win a major T20 event after inspiring the Multan Sultans to the Pakistan Super League title in June.
Muzarabani has also been a mainstay in the Zimbabwe bowling attack this season making him a worthy contender for the sportsperson of the year award. Another golfer Robson Chinhoi has had an impressive season.
Best Female athlete: Donata Katai
Teenage swimming sensation Donata Katai made headlines by becoming the first black swimmer to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics. Competing in the 100m backstroke, Katai finished 34th overall and posted a personal best time at the event. Katai also scooped four gold medals at the African Union Sports Council Region Five Youth Games in Maseru, Lesotho early this month putting her in good stead for the best female athlete this year.
Boxer Monalisa Sibanda scored a major breakthrough in her career in April 2021, by clinching the vacant Women’s International Boxing Organisation (WIBA) title, after defeating Kenyan Joyce Awino, in Nairobi on Saturday night.
Captain Marie-Anne Musonda made history for herself after she scored a magnificent century to help Zimbabwe Women to an historic victory in their first ever ODI against Ireland Women by four wickets at Harare Sports Club in October.
Junior athlete of the year: Makanaka Mawere
Teenage triathlon sensation Makana Mawere achieved a rare feat by representing the country in three different sporting disciplines on the international stage, that is in tennis, swimming and triathlon this year
The 17-year-old Hellenic Academy student has had a brilliant season in which she managed three podium finishes at international events including a bronze medal at the flagship event Africa Triathlon Junior Cup at Troutbeck Resort in September.
Earlier in the year, Mawere had won bronze at the Africa Triathlon Championships in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, competing in the Junior Women category
Best Team: The Sables
In a year where Zimbabwe’s sports teams struggled on the international stage the national rugby team, the Sables remained on course to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup after beating Burkina Faso twice.
The Zimbabwe national 15s rugby team also ended the year on a high after recording a historic 24-22 win over higher ranked Brazil the inaugural between the two teams in the World Rugby Stellenbosch Challenge in South Africa a couple of months ago.
Although, the Sables, who were missing most of their overseas based stars lost in the final against Namibia, it was a good year for Zimbabwe’s flagship rugby side who are hoping to return for the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1991.
The Sables will need to win what will be a tightly-contested African qualification tournament in France next year to clinch the sole automatic spot to the World Cup in the same country in 2023.
The Zimbabwe national football team also qualified for a fifth consecutive Afcon finals appearances but the team’s record during the year under review leaves a lot to be desired.
Zimbabwe’s Under-21 women’s field hockey team qualified for the 2021 Junior World Cup which was scheduled to be held in South Africa this month before being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The team’s qualification was however based on their previous performance at the Junior Africa Cup, where they finished runners up in 2016.
Technical officials: Sarah Bennet/Langton Rusere
Hockey Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) secretary-general Sarah Bennett hoisted the country’s flag up at the Tokyo Olympics after she was appointed as a judge for the Men’s Gold Medal match between Australia and Belgium.
It was a first for Zimbabwe to have a technical official take charge of such a high profile Olympic Games.
However, it was difficult to separate Bennett from cricket umpire Langton Rusere who became the first black African umpire to stand in a Test match when Zimbabwe hosted Pakistan at the Harare Sports Club earlier this year.
The 36-year-old umpire was among 20 of the best match officials from around the world to take charge at the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in United Arab Emirates a few months ago.
Rusere’s last match at the World Cup was the Super 12 clash between eventual finalists New Zealand and Afghanistan on November 7 at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Worst team: The Warriors
The national football team are arguably the worst team of the year despite qualifying for yet another dance at Africa’s premier football tournament Afcon. The Warriors won only one match from 15 matches played in the calendar year so far.
The team recorded 10 defeats cutting across different competitions which include the CHAN finals, Afcon qualifiers, Cosafa championships and World Cup qualifiers.
And the team’s ranking also plummeted to 121 in the World and no other national team has performed worse than the football team.
Even though the five-member Zimbabwe Olympics team that represented the country in Tokyo comprising golfer Scott Vincent, Donata Katai, Peter Purcil-Gilpin, Peter Wetzlar and Ngoni Makusha had an underwhelming performance, it is the Warriors who have had the worst season.
Villain of the Year: Zdravko Logarusic
Former Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic, will always be infamously remembered for his disastrous 18 month tenure in which he reduced the Warriors to punching bags of the continent.
The 55-year-old coach presided over the Warriors’ worst run in history, and it remains a mystery how he managed to stay in charge for longer, despite the depressing statistics and pressure from the fans.
The gaffer, who still had five months running on his contract, had a miserable run as Zimbabwe coach, after winning only one game, in 14 outings.
Despite helping the Warriors over the line, in the 2021 Afcon qualifiers, he contributed only four points, from a possible 12, with the other four points coming from the opening two matches, when Joey Antipas was in charge.