MANZINI, Eswatini 

The head of the Eswatini Olympics and Commonwealth Games Association (EOCGA), Adam Mthethwa, announced an eight-member Tokyo Olympics team.

“We’re happy to inform the nation that a number of athletes have qualified to participate and compete at the Games and as such the EOCGA will be sending a team to represent the country in Japan,” he said. “We are confident that the athletes will do the country proud. It is worth noting that this is the biggest team we are sending to the Olympics in a long time.”

Mthethwa said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the government of Japan introduced stringent coronavirus countermeasure protocols to protect citizens and participating teams.

Part of the protocols addresses the need to minimize crowds and people at any given point during the Games and a staggered arrival and departure schedule.

“Team Eswatini would travel on different dates to and from Tokyo. We’re therefore confident that the team’s itinerary will give them sufficient time to acclimatize and prepare adequately for competing in Japan,” said Mthethwa.

EOCGA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Maxwell Jele, said team Eswatini has benefitted from more than ZAR700,000 ($48,500) from the International Olympics Committee to cover expenses for the Games.

“All expenses for the trip will be catered for by the funds from the organizing committee. These include traveling expenses, preparation before games, training camp, uniform, meals and allowances while accommodation will be catered for by the host city Tokyo,” he said.

Sprinter Sibusiso Matsenjwa promised to do his best against the world’s best.

“I don’t want to make promises, the competition will be tough but I will compete effectively. I hope to acclimatize quickly. I am working hard with my coach,” said Matsenjwa.

Eswatini has never won a medal at the Olympics and Matsenjwa attributed that fact to a lack of professionalization in sports in the kingdom.

“It is a combination of factors but the sport should be fully professional and have a lot of incentives. As an athlete, I shouldn’t consider my government job more important and secure than my sports career. Otherwise, it will be difficult to compete in such prestigious global competitions,” he said.

Matsenjwa said youth development is important for the kingdom to spot and groom talent at a young age.

“I gained international exposure when I was 18 years but my contemporaries in developed countries might have been exposed to professional athletics as early as the age of 7 to 8 years,” he said.

“That’s a huge difference as a Swazi coming from a rural background. That’s why when I retire from the international competitions; my objective is to groom young talent. Of cause, make good use of international connections I have built over the years. I’ll expose the youngsters to professional competitions and training,” he added.

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