Zimbabwe will, for the first time in 16 years, be represented in the sporting discipline of rowing at the Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing, China, in August.
This follows a special invitation that the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee recently received from the International Rowing Federation for them to enter an athlete for the women's singles scull regatta at this year's biggest sporting jamboree in Beijing, The Herald reported on Wednesday.
The last time that Zimbabwe were represented in rowing at the Games was during the 1992 Barcelona showcase in Spain where Susanne Standish-White and Margaret Gibson took part in the women's coxless pairs event.
They, however, returned home empty-handed and since that time, no other Zimbabwean rower has been selected for the Zimbabwe team to the Games.
But that is soon set to change with the country's participation in the women's singles scull event in Beijing in August.
Robert Mutsauki, the ZOC chief executive, on Tuesday broke the good news to the local rowing family by revealing that Zimbabwe have been invited to send a rower at this year's Beijing Games in August.
"We were recently advised by the International Rowing Federation that another unspecified African National Olympic Committee had decided not to enter their crew for Beijing 2008 after securing a slot during the 2007 African Olympic qualification regatta (All-Africa Games) in the women's singles scull event," he said.
"And since Zimbabwe was next in line or came second during the qualifying event, we were invited to consider entering a Zimbabwean rower in (this year's) Olympic Games," he added.
"We thought this was a good opportunity for our young and promising rowers and we duly consulted the Rowing Association of Zimbabwe who readily accepted the offer. We have, therefore, confirmed the participation of a (Zimbabwean) rower at the 2008 Beijing Games in August," Mutsauki said.
The ZOC boss said the Rowing Association of Zimbabwe have, however, decided to conduct selection trials before nominating the specific rower who will represent Zimbabwe at the Beijing Olympics.
The inclusion of rowing brings to six the number of sporting disciplines that Zimbabwe will be competing in at this year's Olympic Games.
It also increases the number of athletes that have so far qualified to represent the country at the Games to 13 and they will be carrying the country's flag in athletics, swimming, cycling (mountain bike), tennis, triathlon and rowing.
Mutsauki said the inclusion of a rower in Team Zimbabwe 2008 was a welcome development as "rowing is a growing sport in the country with mainly young athletes involved".
"So, from a developmental point of view, this exposure to the Olympic Games will be a major boost (to the sport) because it will act as an incentive which will inspire a number of young aspiring rowers in Zimbabwe particularly those in the schools system," he said.
"It's important to convince athletes through practical evidence (such as participation in the Olympic Games) that there is a bright future in their sport so that they can make the necessary sacrifices in the transition from being a young talented athlete to an accomplished world class performer," Mutsauki said.
He also said that the door remains open for other additional athletes from Zimbabwe to qualify for the Beijing Games.
"In fact, our application for clay target shottist Mike Nicholson to receive a tripartite invitation for the Games is still under consideration by the International Shooting Sport Federation who advised us that he is still on the waiting list," Mutsauki said.
Local swimming icon Kirsty Coventry heads the list of 12 athletes who have already qualified to represent Zimbabwe at the Beijing Olympics.
Also in the team are Coventry's fellow United States-based swimmer Heather Brand, sprinters Brian Dzingai, Lewis Banda and Young Talkmore Nyongani, marathon runners Mike Fokorani and Tabitha Tsatsa, middle-distance runner Cutbert Nyasango, long jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha, mountain bike rider Antipas Kwari, triathlete Chris Felgate and female tennis star Cara Black.
The final Zimbabwe team for the Beijing Olympic Games will be named in mid-July.
(Xinhua News Agency June 26, 2008)