Future is bright for Tanzanian swimmers with policy, support


WITH Tokyo 2020 Olympic campaign sweeping across the medal-hungry Tanzania, swimming, a purely English Medium School’s dominion, has been among a few practitioners in the bandwagon.

There is a significant achievement in swimming reported in the recent years despite going unnoticeably in Tanzania’s sports mainstream; all in the sport’s bid to win the country’s medals in big games.

Just three years remaining before Tokyo 2020, the swimming governing body, Tanzania Swimming Association (TSA) has been using all what it could to drill its athletes so that they pass qualifications tests.

Hottest in the focus for the hard fighting TSA team is hosting the continental level swimming competitions governed by CANA III (Confederation Africaine de Natation) or African swimming confederation.

The local swimming body has been honoured to host this year’s round of the continental level competition that solely involves the young athletes. To make it reaches the desired goal, TSA is seeking 30,000 US dollars (about 66m/-) sponsorship enable to it successfully host CANA Zone III Swimming Championship.

As unveiled by its Secretary General, Ramadhani Namkoveka, HOPAC International School in Dar es Salaam is the venue picked for the championship to be held from October 19th to 21st this year.

Namkoveka said the fundraising committee has been fighting hard to raise the funds, but its efforts can only be successful if individuals, corporate firms and government institutions come forward and give a helping hand.

To TSA, hosting CANA III means to shape athletes and pick the best ones for the national swimming team that will represent the country in the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Coast, Australia, as well as Youth Olympics, scheduled to take place in October the following year in Argentina.

Also among the focus in the visionary TSA leadership is the 4th edition of the continental level competition (CANA III) to be staged in Malawi next year. While seeking support, TSA sees 10,000 US dollars it has received from the International Swimming Federation (FINA), for preparations is not sufficient for the job.

The amount which is about 24m/- can not meet all requirements in the big tournament whose participants involve seven Africans countries namely South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Djibouti.

It is a reality that winning medal in big games such as Olympics, World Championship or Commonwealth Games needs visionary plans, financial support and effective trainings. First we have to learn from countries that bring home the most Olympic medals?

It seems obvious: Those with more wealth and larger populations; rich countries with more people produce more top athletes and have more money to support them. That theory is arguably borne out in the fact that the United States (103 medals, 46 gold) and China (88 medals, 38 gold) brought home the most medals in 2012 London Olympics, and the results were almost the same in Rio de Janeiro Games four years later.

But that can’t be the whole story. If population size is so important, why has India, with 1.3 billion people, won only 26 Olympic medals in its history — while China, with just 100 million more residents, has won 473? The answer is simple; policy, preparations and handpicking of talented athletes.

Various researches found that nations that “institutionalize” the promotion of Olympic sports tend to be more successful. Such nations create a centralised system for identifying talented athletes, supporting them financially and with first-class training facilities, coaching and scientific expertise.

Soviet bloc countries pioneered such institutionalisation in the 1960s and 1970s. Two contemporary examples are the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the Norwegian Olympiatoppen (OT). The AIS and OT have such high-performance sport policies that scholars even called these agencies “medal factories.”

Also it can be helpful to the developing countries like Tanzania is specialising in the sports in which the nation is most likely to medal. Previous athletics and boxing were the focus and the country managed to win several Commonwealth Games medals and the only two silver medals in Olympics.

Filbert Bayi and Suleiman Nyambui who won Olympic medals in 3000m steeplechase and 5000m respectively were both long distance runners. Since then long distance races became the country major hopes in big games.

Taking from neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia, it seems clear that nations that focus on promoting sports where they’re most likely to win are more likely to bring home medals.

Tanzania, a member of International Olympic Committee (IOC) could be among the countries that have generally taken two strategies: Either promote sports in which the nation has long excelled or support sports newly added to the Olympics.

Poorer or smaller countries tend to take a more targeted approach as well. For instance, Ethiopia invests in running, winning all 45 Olympic medals for the country in that sport, most of them in long-distance running.

Jamaica has won all but three of its 68 Olympic medals in sprinting events. Cuba focuses on boxing, and has won 67 of its 209 summer Olympic medals in that sport. TSA is one of the sports bodies that has seen a bright future for the local swimmers and engaged in efforts to ensure they are well developed to the international standards.

It is only the right policies and commitment that can help our sports bodies achieve as it has been proven that wealth and size aren’t the only paths to Olympic victory. This can be proved by Cuba, the master of boxing, Kenya and Ethiopia who dominate the running.

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