By Sheldon Hakata
IN Zimbabwe, our women’s journey in sport has not been rosy.
However, they have gained a lot of ground and established their niche on the sporting landscape.
Access to sport has considerably developed over the decades, as sport has become part of most schools’ syllabi.
That explains why, of late, women have been involved in sport as trainers and coaches.
It is not a secret that the bulk of the country’s sporting disciplines are male-dominated, but women have realised greater results for the nation of Zimbabwe.
Women have eclipsed their male counterparts, especially when performing on the grand stage.
The year 1980 is fondly remembered as the year Zimbabwe attained its independence on April 18.
That same year, the winners of the country’s first Olympic gold medal became known as the ‘Golden Girls’ after their triumph in the women’s field hockey in Moscow, Russia.
After waiting another two decades for another Olympic glory, swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry claimed silver in the 100m backstroke, capping off her fantastic campaign with a gold medal in the 200m backstroke and bronze in the 200m individual medley.
The now Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and Africa’s most successful female swimmer, Coventry rounded her career as a decorated five-time Olympian in 2016.
She has won seven medals; two gold and four silver with one bronze medal at the Olympics during her competing days.
Not to be outdone are the Mighty Warriors.
Indeed, they proved to be mightier than their male Warriors.
They became the first football team from the country to qualify and compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The Zimbabwe women’s cricket team, affectionately known as ‘Lady Chevrons’, were also outstanding during the ICC Women’s T20 African Region Qualifier in Harare.
They were unbeaten during the tournament and booked a place at the ICC Women’s World T20 Qualifier in Scotland in August of 2019.
In boxing, female pugilist Kudakwashe ‘Take Money’ Chiwandire is the country’s most successful boxer after winning the World Boxing Council (WBC) Super Bantamweight Interim Gold Title.
Take Money is the second African woman to land the belt after Zambian boxer Catherine Phiri.
Chiwandire’s achievements add to the many success stories by Zimbabwean women in sport who, so far, have hoisted high the national flag ever since the women’s field hockey team won gold at the Olympic Games in Russia in 1980.
The current craze, however, in local sport is about the senior women’s netball team, popularly known as the Gems.
They graced the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England, in 2019 and had a fantastic run in their maiden World Cup appearance.
The best sporting team from Zimbabwe so far played with passion and composure as if they had been there before.
Now they have qualified for next year’s World Cup to be held in South Africa.
They join Malawi, South Africa and Uganda as the continent’s representatives.
Zimbabwe defeated Zambia 59-41 in the bronze medal match of the Africa qualifiers in South Africa to book a second appearance at the World Cup.
They have made it two in a row and next year’s will be the first on African soil.
The 2023 Netball World Cup will be hosted in Cape Town, South Africa, from July 28 to August 6.
As the nation celebrates women in sport, why has it taken so long for the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, Sports and Recreational Commission and the Ministry of Sport to address gender imbalances in sport?
Women and men must be treated equally in sport .
What is surprising is, even with limited resources, female athletes can achieve more as they continue to showcase their capabilities.
Of the medals Zimbabwe is getting in different sporting disciplines, the bulk come from female athletes.
Such achievements should help debunk the negative perceptions towards women who participate in sport.
With strong support systems in place, starting at family level, the girl-child has the potential to succeed in sport, raising the country’s flag even higher.
Why do male athletes earn more compared to their female counterparts even when women are making a name for Zimbabwe in the sports world?
Why should ladies travel by road when their male counterparts travel by air?
Something is wrong somewhere.
Let us all spare a thought for women in sport.