An outstanding performance by Catherine Chikwakwa inspired Malawians to steal the limelight at the Southern Africa Cross Country Championships at the Lobamba Sports Centre in Swaziland on Saturday 28 February.
What a day of action packed entertainment. When spectators where not being thrilled by the exciting competition, they where entertained by the lively traditional music and dance by the performances of the Mbabane-based People's Educational Theatre. This was the first international athletics competition staged in Swaziland.
Malawi makes clean sweep
Catherine Chikwakwa blew away the field in the senior women's 8km covering the distance in 28:17. Lesotho's Mamoroalo Boka (29.16) was a distance second, ahead of Malawi's Gertrude Banda (29.30)
Less than 40 minutes later Chikwakwa (14.16) won the 4km race. Lesotho's Manthakena Mankotoae and Boka Mamaroalo (14.39) crossed the finish line practically together, ahead of Mozambican Piuza Leonar (15.21).
"The training camp sponsored by the International Olympic Committee in Zombe since last August, has enabled us train well and the results are showing. This time I want to be competitive in the 5000 at the Olympics,"says Chikwakwa. She captured the IOC's attention when as a barefooted 15 year old, she was the last to complete the event at the Sydney Olympic.
Lucia Chandamale's (21.37) victory in the junior women's 6 km completed Malawi's scoop of the individual women awards. Her compatriots Master Teleza (21.41) and Alice Msumba (21.42) held of Zimbabwe's Beauty Dube (21.47) to enable Malawi take a clean sweep of the top three places. Malawi won all three women's team titles.
"Until ten years ago women's did not participate in athletics in our country. Chikwakwa is a great inspiration to a growing number of young Malawian girls,"says Haxson Chapasa, the Athletics Association of Malawi Secretary General.
"The IOC offered scholarships and training facilities for Chikwakwa and Francis Muthanzi (who set a national 1500m record at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games). An agreement was reached that instead of them training at the IAAF Regional Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, we would localise the camp in Zombe to benefit more youngsters. This is the secret behind our success today," Chapasa explained.
To round off what is probably Malawi's greatest moment in athletics, Mike Tebulo won the junior men's 8 km. Weather the strong teamwork of his South African peers, he clocked a winning time of 25.05. South Africa's Nkhululeko Zamisa (25.30) and Malawians George Mkubadira (25.35) and Hendrison Lakakala (25.43) followed in that order. Malawi won the team title.
Lesotho's moment of glory
Earlier on, the day got off to an exciting start with the senior men four kilometres. Lesotho's Moeketsi Moshuhli (11.57) broke away midway through the second lap to win the race. Malawi's Francis Muthanzi (12.10) held off Lesotho's Lephethesang Adora (12.15) and Joese Lius Code (12.18) of Mozambique to finish second. So intense was the competition that a mere two points separated the top three teams.
"I am happy that this time I have completed the race. Last year in Angola I entered the 12 km race but dropped out after 10 km. So this time I entered the shorter race and I am glad that we can return home with win," said Moeketsi Moshuhli,
Zimbabweans support regional competition
The last and most prestigious event the senior men's 12km, went Zimbabwe's way with little-known Kelvin Pangiso (36:36) first across the finish line. Zambian Joseph Simuchimba (36:57), Francis Khanje (37.20) of Malawi, and Botswana's Mosalagae Kaelo (37.40) finished ahead of Zimbabwe's former Soweto marathon champion Honest Mutsakane (37.43) the pre-race favourite.
"I hope to represent Zimbabwe at the World Cross country Championships. Last week I won the national championship in Harare. After today I think I have proved my ability to represent Zimbabwe effective in Brussels," said Pangiso.
Mutsakane and Elijah Mutandiro, the reigning Soweto marathon champions where delighted with the Pangiso's victory."This marks the beginning of our build up to the Soweto marathon," says Mutsakane.
"Charity begins at home. We came here to lend support to the organisers of this event. One day we hope Swaziland will produce a world class athlete," said Mutandiro.
Swaziland were out of their depth in the competition. However they are not disappointed. "Our athletes especially the girls have never experience such competition before. With such exposure we hope to improve our performance," said a member of the organising committee Louis Dlamini.
Note: Over 100 competitors entered as guest athletes and they did not score points for their countries.
Junior Men 8km
1 Mike Tebulo (Malawi) 25.05
2 Nkhululeko Zamisa (South Africa) 25.30
3 George Mkubadira (Malawi) 25.35
4 Hendrison Lakakala (Malawi) 25.43
5 Samuel Pazanga (Zimbabwe) 25.50
6 Nkosinxolo Sinqiniso (South Africa) 25.56
7 Alfred Moyakhe (South Africa) 25.58
8 David Thomas (Namibia) 26.01
9 Mandla Maseko (South Africa) 26.11
10 Dumsane Mavuso (Swaziland) 26.11
1 Malawi 8 points
2 South Africa 17 points
3 Swaziland 39 points
Senior Men 4 Km
1 Moeketsi Moshuhli (Lesotho) 11.57
2 Francis Muthanzi (Malawi) 12.10
3 Lephethesand Adora (Lesotho) 12.15
4 Joese Lius Code (Mozambique) 12.18
5 Joageum Joao Chigueda (Mozambique) 12.22
6 Simon Labiche (Seychelles) 12.25
7 Ramsamy (Mauritius) 12.32
8 Rashid Taimu (Malawi) 12.36
9 Emmanuel Chimdzeka (Malawi) 12.41
10 Jeetun (Mauritius) 12.47
1 Lesotho 19 points
2 Malawi 21 points
3 Mozambique 21 points
Senior Men 12 Km
1 Kelvin Pangiso (Zimbabwe) 36.36
2 Joseph Simuchimba (Zambia) 36:57
3 Francis Khanje (Malawi) 37.20
4 Mosalagae Kaelo (Botswana) 37.40
5 Honest Mutsakane (Zimbabwe) 37.43
6 Vincent Hatuleke (Zambia) 37.49
7 Kamwendo Rodwel (Malawi) 37.55
8 Gabalebe Moloko (Botswana) 38.00
9 Moeketsi Mosuhli (Lesotho) 38.03
10 Macmillan Mwanza (Zambia) 38.18
1 Zambia 33 points
2 Botswana 34 points
3 Malawi 40 points
Junior Women 6 Km
1 Lucia Chandamale (Malawi) 21.37
2 Master Teleza (Malawi) 22.41
3 Alice Msumba (Malawi) 21.42
4 Beauty Dube (Zimbabwe) 21.47
5 Retief Maraliese (South Africa) 22.17
6 Nicolene van Roogen (South Africa) 22.29
7 Christine Kalmer (South Africa) 22.33
8 Este de Jager (South Africa) 22.45
9 Maricia Krige (South Africa) 23.04
10 Jerewiar Porchina (Mozambique) 23.22
1 Malawi 6 points
2 South Africa 18 points
3 Mozambique 33 points
Senior Women 4 Km
1 Catherine Chikwakwa (Malawi) 14.16
2 Manthakena Mankotoae (Lesotho) 14.39
2 Boka Mamaroalo (Lesotho) 14.39
4 Piuza Leonar (Mozambique) 15.21
5 Monique Natasha (Mauritius) 15.28
6 Miriah Thole (Malawi) 15.59
7 Micas Aida (Mozambique) 16.25
8 Kabi Rethabile (Lesotho) 16.24
9 Bertina Mpinganjira (Malawi) 16.57
10 Patricia Sichali (Malawi) 17.22
1 Malawi 17 points
2 Lesotho 19 points
3 Mozambique 28 points
Senior Women 8 Km
1 Catherine Chikwakwa (Malawi) 28.17
2 Mamoroalo Boka (Lesotho) 29.16
3 Gertrude Banda (Malawi) 29.30
4 Samukeliso Moyo (Zimbabwe) 29.58
5 Agnes Chikwakwa (Malawi) 30.44
6 Tivapo Phiri (Zimbabwe) 31.13
7 Onneile Kintwe (Botswana) 32.36
8 Beatrice Hlophe (Swaziland) 33.20
9 Simangele Mahlambi (Swaziland) 33.29
10 Letsoisa Rorisang (Lesotho) 34.26
1 Malawi 9 points
2 Lesotho 24 points
3 Swaziland 28 points