By Collin Matiza
Rowers Micheen Thornycroft and James Fraser Mackenzie were yesterday expected to be the first set of Zimbabwean athletes to arrive at the Games Village of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The Games Village of the London Games was officially opened yesterday, 11 days before the opening ceremony of the world’s biggest sporting showcase, which is set to run from July 27 to August 12 in the British capital.
And Thornycroft and Mackenzie, who will represent Zimbabwe in rowing at these Games, were expected to be part of around 335 athletes from around the world to first set foot on the Games Village yesterday.
Busi Chindove, the chef de mission of Team Zimbabwe for the 2012 London Olympic Games, confirmed this yesterday, saying Thornycroft and Mackenzie were expected to be the first Zimbabwean athletes to arrive at the Games Village with their coach Rachel Davies.
Margie Gibson, the rowers’ physiotherapist, was also expected to join them in the Games Village yesterday with four other members of Team Zimbabwe — Kathy Lobb (assistant chef de mission), Imelda Shoko (Press attache) and Farai Muguwe (second physiotherapist).
Gibson, Lobb, Shoko and Muguwe left Harare for London on Sunday and were expected to arrive in the British capital yesterday afternoon.
In fact, Chindove and Primrose Mhunduru, who will act as an administration personnel for Team Zimbabwe during this year’s Olympics, were the first to arrive in London on Saturday after having left Harare on Friday.
Speaking from London yesterday, Chindove said after arriving in London on Saturday morning, they quickly attended a delegation registration meeting with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
“Everything is in order . . . We had what they call a delegation registration meeting with LOCOG on Saturday. They (LOCOG) were generally checking if we (Team Zimbabwe) are ready to compete in the Games.
“It was a detailed process for us and it took three hours but LOCOG said it was the fastest they’ve had so far and this showed that we are really prepared to compete at these Games,” Chindove said.
At this year’s London Games, Zimbabwe will be represented by seven athletes — swimmer Kirsty Coventry, marathon runners Wirimayi Juwawo, Cutbert Nyasango and Sharon Tavengwa, triathlete Chris Felgate and the two rowers Thornycroft and Mackenzie.
This is the smallest team that Zimbabwe have sent to the Olympics since the country first competed at the world’s biggest sporting showpiece in Moscow, Russia, soon after the attainment of Independence in 1980.
But Chindove said yesterday hopes were high that this small team of athletes will do the nation proud and bring back home a number of medals from the London Games.
Swimming icon Coventry, who was the darling of Team Zimbabwe in the last two Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004 and Beijing, China, in 2008, where she fished out a total of seven medals, is once again the country’s biggest medal hopeful at the London Games.
In London, Coventry will be out to defend her women’s 200m backstroke Olympic title for the second time on the trot after having first won it at the Athens Games in 2004 before she successfully defended it at the Beijing Games four years later.
Apart from defending her women’s 200m backstroke title, Coventry will also take part in the 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley events at the London Games.
Chindove said Coventry, who watched the Zimbabwe senior rugby team, the Sables, winning the Africa Cup in Tunis, Tunisia, on Saturday, was only expected to get into the Games Village next Monday.
“Coventry’s first event is on July 29 and she will only arrive in the Games Village on July 23 while triathlete Chris Felgate will be in on July 26. After that, we are expecting the marathon runners to arrive here on August 6,” Chindove said.
She also said male rower Mackenzie, who was camped in north England preparing for the Games, was expected “to drive in” yesterday afternoon.
“Chris will be teaming up with Micheen (Thornycroft) and their coach Rachel Davies and the three will be under the supervision of assistant chef de mission Kathy Lobb.
“They will all head out to Eton, which is 40 miles away from London and is the venue of rowing competitions for this year’s Games.
“All in all, I can safely say everything is going according to plan and I think the team (Team Zimbabwe) is now ready and waiting to represent the country with distinction at this year’s London Olympic Games,” Chindove said.
Meanwhile, top Zimbabwean female long-distance runner Tavengwa will fly out to London from her training base in Kenya on July 31.
At the London Games, Tavengwa will represent Zimbabwe in the women’s marathon and her race will be on August 5, a week before the men’s marathon, which will be run on the last day of the Games.
Tavengwa told The Herald from her base in Kenya that her preparations for the London Games are well on course and she was looking at raising the country’s flag high at this top global sporting event. The Herald