by Philip Richards
Focus on Commonwealth Games 2018
In April this year, some of Tanzania’s Commonwealth Games “greats”, including Filbert Bayi, carried the Queens Baton on its journey through the streets of Dar. In doing so, they sought to inspire young Tanzanians preparing for the 21st Commonwealth games to be held in the Gold Coast, Australia in April 2018, and to set the bar for hopeful athletes to emulate past success.
Filbert Bayi has held the Commonwealth Games 1500m record for 43 years, since the Christchurch 1974 Games. He led from the start and commanded victory over the home crowd favourite, John Walker. In doing so, Bayi set a new world record and changed the tactics of middle-distance running.
Athletics Tanzania announced that their athletes will set up camp in November in Lushoto, Tanga. Bayi himself is quoted as saying that whilst they do not lack talent and potential, unless they prepare well, Tanzania’s athletes will return home empty handed. He singled out Emmanuel Giniki (5000 metres) and Alphonse Simbu (Marathon, Bronze at this year’s IAAF World Championships in London) as hopefuls for medals. However, there is a suggestion that Simbu may skip Gold Coast 2018 in order to prepare for the London Marathon where he will hope to improve on the creditable 5th place in the 2017 race; if this happens, it will clearly hurt the nation’s hopes.
The other sports where Tanzania will look to do well are in boxing, swimming and table tennis. This has been helped by the inter-governmental “sports diplomacy” initiative whereby the country has secured support from leading nations in each sports area in order to raise performance. In table tennis, the country sent 5 players out to a 3-month training camp in Beijing in November underwritten by the Chinese government. Under a similar scheme, it is hoped that athletes will train in Ethiopia and boxers in Cuba as part of their preparation. Tanzania is being represented by 4 swimmers including Sonia Tumiotto who won 14 gold medals in this year’s Africa Swimming Federation (Cana) Zone 3 Championships, and who studies and trains at the St Felix School in Southwold, Suffolk (see TA 117).
Unfortunately, it would appear unlikely that Tanzania will be represented in the Commonwealth Games Paralympics as they failed to attend any qualifying events.
Juma Mohammed Hamisi, who lost his leg in a bus accident and now plays for Tanzania’s junior wheelchair tennis national team, was featured in the UK Guardian. The team qualified for the wheelchair Tennis World Cup in Italy, but were sadly unable to attend for financial reasons.