Makusha makes waves in US

Ngoni Makusha is making waves as an athlete at Florida State University in the United States.

From Zimbabwe to Tallahasee ... Makusha.
From Zimbabwe to Tallahasee … Makusha.

Plucked from humble beginnings in his homeland by assistant coach Ken Harnden, following a tip-off from the mentor’s mother a few years ago, he remains a medal hopeful for his home country in three competitions at the 2012 London Olympics.

Talented in both long jump and the track, Makusha will definitely compete in the long jump, for which he has qualified. An ability to overcome a hamstring injury and reach a 10.11 sprint at the Folksam Grand Prix in Sweden in August will qualify him and see him rub shoulders with the likes of Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt in the 100 meters. He could also compete on Zimbabwe’s 4×100 relay team.

In just three seasons in Florida, Makusha became a six-time NCAA champion, winning three NCAA outdoor titles and taking home the Bowerman Award in his final year there. This completed a solid background for a man who at one stage in his life struggled to feed himself after practice back home.

“I had a coach, but we didn’t really have the facilities like we have here,” Makusha told Fox sports recently.

“At FSU, we have a nice track and we have trainers. In Zimbabwe it was just a track with me and my coach. There’s no masseuse, there’s no athletic trainer, there’s no water or Powerade”.

“I lived 30 minutes away from the track and had to commute every day. After practice I had to queue for the bus and then be crowded on the bus going back home when I hadn’t eaten. I was just punishing myself – it’s a different world here.”

At FSU, he linked up with another star athlete from his homeland, sprinter Brian Dzingai, who finished a stellar college career at FSU and launched his own road to fame.

At $1 500, flying to the US was nowhere near cheap, but Makusha saved his per diems from junior-level international track meets and borrowed money from family and friends to make the trip.

“It was a lot of money. Looking at how things worked out in the end, I just praise the Lord. I’m thankful that I’m here now. My life has totally changed Sometimes it’s hard to paint the picture.”

Upon arrival, the Zimbabwean impressed jumps coach Dennis Nobles with his first leap in his first practice.

“I just watched him move, and it was very obvious that he had talent,” said Nobles.

Makusha won the long jump at the NCAA outdoors in 2008 as a freshman and competed in the Beijing Games that summer. He tied for fourth in the long jump at 8.19 meters — missing a medal by just a centimetre.

Makusha also stacked up five NCAA outdoor and one NCAA indoor title in three years, but it was at the breakthrough weekend last June at the NCAA outdoors that he gave his best so far. He won the 100 meters, long jump and was part of Florida State’s 4×100 relay team that finished first, claiming three NCAA titles in two days and setting the college’s 100 meters record of a blazing 9.89 seconds. He became the fourth man to win both the 100 meters and the long jump.

“It certainly put him on the radar as one of the premier athletes in Zimbabwe. These are the two best athletes our country has to offer,” said Harnden.

Having won a shoe contract and still in touch with his roots, he signed a deal his company, Li-Ning, where he could purchase last year’s shoes for $1 per pair and provide them to youngsters back home.

“We can go out there and we can give some young kids in need some sporting equipment as they prepare for their competitions. Doing good things first and then going to impact the world is very important,” he said.

When the London Games start on July 27, the 25-year-old will be one of the model hopefuls for his country, alongside swimming certainty, Coventry.

He has already won bronze in the long jump, at the World Championships in 2011, so the event will be his best chance again this year.

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