By Lameck Masina
Lack of funding has forced Malawi to send its two athletes without a coach to participate in the World Championship in Athletics of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) scheduled to start on August 27 in Degu, South Korea.
Acting General Secretary for the Athletics Association of Malawi, Mzee Makawa, said this comes after the government drastically reduced its annual funding to the association “due to financial problems facing the country.”
“The funding we get from the government is only enough for organising two local athletic events in a year, and those funds we get from IAAF are for administrative purposes. So financial problems are our major challenge,” said Makawa.
The athletes Ambwene Simkonda (24) will run 400metres female category while Mike Tebulo (25) will run in the full marathon (42.195 kilometres) race.
However Makawa said all is not lost as the athletes would be assisted by AAM president Richard Nyirongo who is already in South Korea for a meeting of the World Championships in Athletics in Daegu.
But critics say the officials of the Athletics Association of Malawi have dropped the athletes’ coach deliberately as a way to explain the failure of the two if they do not perform well in the championships. They say the AAM did the same thing to athletes during the championships in Mauritius.
But Makawa has denied this.
“That is not true. For example, although the athletes went there without a coach in Mauritius, they did well,” he said. “Three of them came home with medals. People should understand that we are facing financial problems.”
Makawa said although the athletes had enough time to prepare, he doubts if they [Malawi athletes] will win any medals at the championship.
“We are going to meet big countries in athletics like America [US], Britain, Germany, Ethiopia, and Kenya,” Makawa said. “We can win a medal but our aim is not to win medals there but we want [our] athletes to improve on their time and qualify for the Olympic Games which are slated for London in 2012.”
He said it would be unfair to expect a win from athletes who have not even met qualifying standards for the World Championship.
“No Malawian athletes qualified for these games. Therefore in such cases, we are only required to send two athletes. A female and a male were just going there for solidarity,” said Makawa.
But before his departure for the games, one of the athletes, Tebulo, told VOA he had adequate preparation and sees no reason why he should fail to bring home a medal.