Best of the Best – Tawanda Chiwira

Rated among the best 400 metre athletes in the country, Tawanda Chiwira represented Zimbabwe at two Olympic Games and was part of the relay team that set the national record in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996.

Tawanda Chiwira.
Tawanda Chiwira.

Best athletics memory

I have great memories of 1996, my championship season. This was my first year specialising in the 400m and I improved my time from 47 seconds to running 45.38 seconds in the quarterfinals of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. I had also come fourth earlier that year in the prestigious National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 Championships in a time of 45.55 seconds. I was an unknown prior to that. Running 45.26s at the Harry Jerome Classic in Canada in 1997 was awesome. Training had been going very well and I had not been executing any of my races properly such that I was going through a ‘do-or-die’ mentality. I was also injury free which was somewhat of a rarity.

Best competition

In terms of performance it has to be the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I overcame obstacles to churn out a Zimbabwean record at that time when we (relay team) ran 45.38s. The 2000 Sydney Olympics were also very memorable.

Best race

Most definitely the 1997 4x400m relay finals in Athens, Greece. The relay team (in running order) had me, Philip Mukomana, Savieri Ngidhi and Kenneth Harnden. We had just set a Zimbabwean record in the heats in a time of 3:00.79. We came seventh in the final, but the fact that we had achieved what we did at the time was more than a pleasant surprise. The statistics showed that for that final, teams one to seven had run the fastest times ever for a place in a World Championships final. We were later promoted to sixth when it was discovered the USA had fielded drug tainted athletes. On a more personal perspective, 1998 was a brilliant year. I had just run 45.82 indoors and our (university) 4x400m team was running at the National Indoor Track and Field Championships. Despite carrying an ankle injury, I split a very fast 45.2 seconds. X-rays showed that I had fractured my ankle and by the grace of God and some superhuman feat I managed to run. The only negative thing about that was that it ruined my outdoor season!

Best opponent

I have run against Butch Reynolds, Michael Johnson, Frankie Fredericks, Carl Lewis, Brian Dzingai, Antonio Pettigrew just to name a few. However, I must say, when I was still based in Zimbabwe I will never forget my friendly rivalries with Philip Mukomana and Elliot Mujaji. You were guaranteed exciting races every time we stepped on the track.

Best Zimbabwean sportsperson

I will pick two people- a male and female. One is Kirsty Coventry. She is a multiple NCAA champion, multiple World Champion, multiple Olympic Champion, multiple World Record holder and multiple Olympic Record Holder. Need I say more? No wonder she was elected into the Olympic Committee by her peers. In individual head to head events there is only one gold medal we have achieved in the history of the Olympics. Another is Ngonidzashe Makusha. In the 100m, only two African men have ever run faster. Until recently Makusha was the only Zimbabwean male to run under 10 seconds. Not only did he run this time but he ran it at the NCAA Division 1 Championships five minutes after Brian Dzingai had sent me a Whatsapp message predicting that the Zimbabwean record would take a huge tumble. His Long Jump performance at the same competition meant that he was only the fourth male ever in the history of NCAA Division 1 to complete the 100m/Long Jump Double. Only Carl Lewis and Jessie Owens have ever done this historic double. The scary thing is Makusha is still very young!

Best times recorded

200m indoor 21.15s 200m outdoor 20.79s 400m indoor 45.82 (1998) 400m outdoor 45.26 (1997)

Best accolade

Finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon in 1996, winning the Amateur Athletics Association Athlete of the Year 1997 and the Senior University Athlete of the Year, in 2000. The most gratifying feeling is when people that you do not know recognise you for you feats in the sporting arena. It was very humbling indeed.

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