Born to Sprint

(L-R) US Octavious Freeman and Zambia's Yvonne Nalishuwa run during the women's 100 metres first round at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on August 11, 2013.

IT has been 17 years since a Zambian athlete won a medal at the world athletics championships. Indeed the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics in the USA will still remain fresh in the history books of the country’s athletics.

It was the last time Zambia’s anthem was sung and the national flag raised high on the podium of honours.

Samuel Matete won a Silver medal in the 400 metres men’s hurdles. That feat was a moment of triumph for the athletics fraternity in Zambia.

Since then, several attempts have been made by gallant women and men to replicate or better the record at that level but none of them has yielded positive results and the search continues.

Over the past decade, Zambia has witnessed the rise of ambitious athletes who have sought Ato lift the country’s name in the eyes of the world but making it on a list of the top class athletes that win medals has been a tricky job.

During this dry spell, various female sprinters have emerged in contention to do battle for Zambia in their efforts to achieve the Olympic dream of winning medals, yet the dream seems to be farfetched.

The level of women sprinters in Zambia is slowly gaining momentum and though medals have eluded us as a country, there is light at the end of the tunnel for our female sprinters as they aspire for greater heights.

This country has produced the likes of veteran runner Carol Mokola who competed in women’s 100 metres at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Sadly, she did not advance past the first round.

Rachael Nachula participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She managed to advance beyond the opening heats in the women’s 400 metres.

Nachula looked set to progress through to the final heat but calamity struck in the semifinals when she finished last in the race and bowed out of the competition.

With that noted, the Spectrum avails one of the Zambia Amateur Athletics Association (ZAAA)’s female revelations Yvonne Nalishuwa.

This new kid on the block has what it takes to be a female flag bearer for Zambia during the world’s prestigious competitions.

With no track record of top flight silverware and little known in the sports circles, Nalishuwa has blossomed into a full-fledged sprinter whose mission is to overturn the wave of misfortunes that has deprived our athletes of medals.

Born on October 11 1994, Nalishuwa’s performance has sky-rocketed considerably over the last few years from racing at regional and national schools’ competitions to competing against the highly rated runners in the world.

Her dream of achieving the status of being one of the greatest female sprinters in Zambia’s history is slowly becoming a reality.

The year 2013 had been a significant one for Nalishuwa who faced the greatest challenge of her career when she took to the tracks at the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia.

That feat provided her an insight into the reality of the world of athletics as a 100 and 200 metres sprinter.

Nalishuwa’s ride was not an easy one. She faced a high-octane battle, running against the world’s super powers, Jamaica and the United States that have dominated the global sprint scene in the last decades.

Competing against the likes of Verena Sailer of Germany, Octavious Freeman of the U.S.A and Norway’s Ezinne Okparaebo, The Zambian put up a spirited fight but her fight could not outdo the six rivals ahead of her at the finishing line in the Eight-man 100 metres race.

Nalishuwa crashed out of the competition in the first heat of the preliminary round.

She clocked 12.47 seconds in Seventh position, just 1.36 second behind first placed Sailer who clocked 11.11 seconds to advance to the next heat.

The 19-year- old Zambian runner may have felt bad at the results, but looking at the pedigree of her rivals in the race, the experience of participating in a competition of such magnitude should build confidence and uplift this young runner’s resolve to aim higher.

Nalishuwa had been running various competitions since her days and the former Kabulonga Girls Secondary School pupil believes discipline, commitment and hard work are vital tools for her to achieve her dream.

She further believes storming the world scene was just the beginning of better things Zambians are yet to see from her.

At 19, Nalishuwa has a long way to go in her running career and who knows? She might just become the next big thing in the Zambia’s athletics history and lead the way to medals.

Appearance at the IAAF championships in Moscow undoubtedly gave her a positive attitude and boosted her morale to become Zambia’s pride like the legendary Matete has been.

But that status does not come on a Silver plate, it is accompanied by tangible achievements inform of winning medals.

Only then, will she win the accolades of the Zambians, for now, she should work hard in order to earn a place in the national team for the next IAAF championships and other competitions.

She has the potential to become a successful runner and it won’t be long before her presence felt on the world scene.

Nalishuwa’s breakthrough to represent the country at IAAF should therefore inspire other female runners, both upcoming and established. The door is open for more aspiring young sprinters in the country.

With such enthusiasm by young people to rise to the occasion in trying their best in the world of athletics, Zambians will win Olympic medals.

Times of Zambia