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African tiger Malawi faces challenge

08 Mar 06 05:36
A display of boxing at the Kamuzu Institute of Sport, Malawi.

A display of boxing at the Kamuzu Institute of Sport, Malawi.

The Malawi Commonwealth Games team has left home for Melbourne to acclimatise and commence final preparations for the Games.

The central south-east African team is hoping to add to their tally of three bronze medals won in previous Commonwealth Games.

Malawi is bringing a total of 31 athletes to Melbourne, including strong Netball and Boxing squads, Track and Field athletes, Lawn Bowls, Squash and Table Tennis competitors.

Chairman of the Malawi National Sports Council, Richard Banda, said he was impressed with the training undertaken by the Malawian squad.

“Sprinter Susan Tengatenga is likely to do Malawi proud”, he said.

Head of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association of Malawi Technical Commission, Oscar Kanjala, said Malawians should not doubt the possibility of their representatives bringing home medals.

“Netball is a force to reckon with in the region and they have been finishing at good positions in the COSANA (Confederation of Southern African Netball Associations) tournament. Even South Africa knows that there is Malawi!” Kanjala said.

Kanjala said the Malawi national Netball team, which has been grouped against England, New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and South Africa, is in a tough group but “not even a single hope has to be lost”, he said.

“I put Malawi at par with England. We are aware that New Zealand is also a strong team, but I hope Malawi should be able to finish second in the group - but they have the potential to beat everybody,” Kanjala said.

National Netball coach Griffin Saenda agreed with Kanjala on the strength of his team.

“We are ready for the Games and I cannot doubt our good performance. We have been working on the coordination amongst the players, shooting, defence and the mental and physical fitness of the team,” he said.

“Boxing also should give us hope because of the strength and skill of Chimwemwe Chiotcha and Osgood Kayuni and how they are performing. They make a good representation and they are confident,” said Kanjala.

In December last year, Chiotcha defeated renowned boxer Dave Mazinyani in the sixth round during a ten-round non-professional bout staged in Liwonde, a regional centre located in southern Malawi, while Kayuni has scored a number of amateur wins recently.

Malawi’s national Athletics coach, Isaac Phiri, said his athletes - Susan Tengatenga, Lucia Chandamale, Mike Tebulo and Chauncy Master - are also fully geared for the Games.

Tebulo will run in the 5,000m and Tengatenga in the 100 and 200m events on the track.

“We are giving them equal chances of winning especially because they will be running in different categories,” Phiri said.

Two athletes in Lawn Bowls, Bashir Shariff and Zelda Humphreys, and coach Lawrence Arthur, have been preparing for the Games for a long time.

Shariff said that with their good finishing in an African States Tournament in 2003, in which they finished third out of eight countries, and the high standard of facilities in Melbourne, they hope to do well.

The narrow land-locked African republic, shaped by the dramatic Rift Valley, won a Boxing bronze medal on its first appearance in the Commonwealth Games in 1970 and two more Boxing medals in 1986.

Malawi is one of 18 African nations competing in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

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