Tanzania: Bubbly Marathoners Chase Elusive Medals

They will jog around the stadium repeatedly. All of a sudden they start sprinting fast and then merely walk around.

Smiling all the way, the young athletes will appear to be caught up in a kind of a fun.

But here are the Tanzanian hopefuls to the Olympic Games opening tomorrow in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in a training session.

The trio are Sarah Ramadhani Makera, Alphonce Felix Simbu and Saidi Makula, three of the four runners in Team Tanzania's athletic squad.

The other is Fabian Joseph who was not around at the Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium in Arusha last weekend when The Citizen visited the venue to see their preparations.

At the training, the trio were not only full of confidence, but exhibited a high level of team work in preparation for a herculean task ahead of them.

It was not difficult to find out why. They are all long distance runners heading to Rio to compete in the marathon races, normally held at the closing stages of the Summer Olympics.

They use the opportunity to acquaint themselves with tactics to win the game and avoid unfortunate circumstances where they can collide with fellow competitors in the last stages and then miss a medal.

The first question this writer posed was; Marathon being a long distance race (42 kilometres) which is the best tactic to win; by hitting the ground running after the gun shot or taking it cautiously so as not to lose much energy in the last stages?

Alphonce Simbu, the ever smiling runner, says in today's competitions there is no chance to let. "You take the bull by its horns right from the start", he remarked, implying it was risky to let others ahead for the sake of saving energy.

It could be either by coincidence or otherwise, the trio hail from the same Singida region (and same Singida district) before finding themselves in Team Tanzania now praying for honours in the Rio Olympics.

Singida is among the regions which have produced star competitors in the track and field events that have won the country top honours in the past; being in the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, All-Africa Games and other regional and international competitions.

The others include Arusha, Dodoma, Manyara and Mara.

Top performing short distance runners happened to come from the southern regions and Dar es Salaam. However, as far as competitive international races are concerned, Tanzania is no longer in the radar.

Sarah Ramadhani is the only female runner in the athletics squad. She is full of hopes of performing well in the Olympics marathon for ladies which will be staged on August 16th.

"I am happy to go for the Olympics. If God wishes I will win. But I wish the people of Tanzania prayed for us" she said in a brief interview after the day's exercises.

She was born at Kisasida on the outskirts of the regional town in the early 1990s and like her fellow athletes, she had been running at the young age during the school games before making her way to Team Tanzania.

Her greatest moment was on March 17th this year when she qualified for the Rio Olympics after a marathon race for ladies which took place in France.

At International La Route due Louvre she finished the 42 km race in 2:45.00 which is within the qualifying time for the Rio Games set by the technical bench of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Another Olympic hopeful and marathon runner in Team Tanzania is Alphonce Simbu who had vowed way back in March this year that he was not going to Brazil as a mere participant in the Olympic competition.

"I am confident I will do better in the Olympics", he said at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) on his return back home from Japan where he emerged third over-all in an international marathon race, clocking 2:09:19.

That was enough time to make him qualify for the Olympic Games.

But his hopes to be picked for the Rio showdown began in August last year in Beijing, China when he clocked 2:16.00 during the world athletics competition, emerging among the 20 best runners and, therefore, joining the 'Gold Level' group.

Saidi Makula is another athlete who has vowed to do his best to win honours for Tanzania in Brazil given his familiarity with the South American country and its hot and humid weather.

"I stayed in Brazil from 2012 to 2015 and, therefore, very familiar with the weather conditions there", he told this newspaper. During his stint there, he took part in athletics competitions in neighbouring Paraguay.

He, however, earned his qualification for Rio during the Casablanca Marathon held in the coastal Moroccan city recently during which he clocked 2:13:19.

Sarah, Makula and Simbu were born in Singida district in the early 1990s.

Source: The Citizen.