United States-based runner Prince Mumba is Zambia’s flag-bearer as the seven-member participating delegation majestically announces the country’s presence at the official opening of the 2012 London Olympics with the hope of giving the southern African nation the elusive medals.
Mumba, a gold medalist at the recent Manchester Parks Grand Prix Series, is one of the three runners that are in the seven team delegation Zambia is hoping will outstrip the 1984 record of light-flyweight Keith ‘Spinks’ Mwila who won bronze at the Los Angeles Games and 400m hurdler Samuel Matete’s 1996 silver medal at the Atlanta Games.
Other than Mwila and Matete, Zambia’s Olympic gold record has only remained an envious journey to the globe’s biggest single multi-sporting event held every four years.
In addition to Mumba, Gerald Phiri and female sprinter Chaoness Choosha are the other runners in Zambia’s contingent.
Light-welterweight Gilbert Choombe is the only boxer while judoka Boas Munyonga (81kgs), swimmers Zane Jordan and Jade Howard complete Zambia’s Olympic envoys.
There are a lot of expectations for the Zambians to haul medals at the event although individual qualifying times leave the country’s reality check for silverware to mere chance.
Inspirational runner Gerald Phiri, like Mumba, is also based in the United States and comes close to the country’s hopes as he holds a 10:06 sec personal best in the 100m race such that to get close to the medal brackets, he must near the world record set at 9:58 seconds or the Olympic record reading 9:69 seconds.
The young runner is in a field of renowned sprinters which includes Usain Bolt, Tayson Gay, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake. They all have a record of less than 10 seconds for the 100m category. In athletics, a second makes a huge difference but Gerald is determined to rub shoulders with the big boys.
Interestingly, Gerald has shared the platform with some of the great sprinting names of the present generation and the Olympic showdown is just another meet to his aspirations of being among the best.
Therefore, he is not intimidated saying; “It does not intimidate me or excite me to face the big runners. My aim is to get the best and possibly make it to [the] final and win a medal for my country.’’
The vow to overcome intimidation will be witnessed when Gerald takes to the track in one of the heats for the sprint category on August 4 to 5.
Prince Mumba’s personal best stands at 1:46.14 but he must edge close to the world record of 1:41.01 or the Olympic record of 1.42.58 to secure a place in the medal brackets.
For the middle distance runner, his call to duty will be on August 6 when the 800m preliminary race is held with Choosha taking to the track three days earlier.
The excuse about preparations does not arise but the challenge is for the Zambian runners to push for better times in the country’s chase for the first Olympic medal in 16 years.
Two of Zambia’s envoys – boxer Choombe and judoka Munyonga – will take to their respective fields 72 hours within the official opening period. Choombe will be in the ring on July 31 the same day Munyonga will be on the mat for some judo confrontation.
If Zambia falls short of medals, southern region’s hunt could be a good consolation as Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa parade some strong competitors.
In Zimbabwe, iconic swimmer Kirsty Coventry, her country’s flag bearer, gets her campaign at the London Olympic Games underway by competing in the heats for 100m backstroke at the Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park in London on Sunday.
The 28-year-old seven-time Olympic medallist is the reigning Olympic champion in the 200m backstroke and will be looking to defend her 200m backstroke gold medal for a third successive Games.
South Africa’s flag bearer Caster Semenya is a sure candidate for medals in the 800m race in the women’s category considering her time of 1:55.45 at the Berlin World Championship in 2009.