Confusion over missed Beijing flight

Herunga blamed her absence from Beijing to the lack of electronic timing equipment at the Zimbabwean “national” championships, held last weekend.

She had been among the last hopefuls that Namibia needed to increase its Olympic representatives when she left for Harare last Friday where she won three gold medals all within the Olympic Qualifying time. But her hand time (hand stopwatch time) of 51.50 seconds is not recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and her coach Seun Karupa took a swipe at the Zimbabwean organisers for destroying the 20-year-old’s opportunity.

“She ran within the qualifying time, but because there were no proper devices, Tjipe has to stay and watch the Olympics at home, which is painful for such a young athlete,” Karupa said.

With a personal best time of 52,46secons in the 400m, she looked on course to make it to the extent that the Namibia National Olympic Committee (NNOC) had reserved her seat in the trip to Beijing.

“We gave Tjipe until July 31 to qualify,” said NNOC President Agnes Tjongarero.

The Olympic B qualifying standard is 52, 35 but not even her three gold medals could console their disappointment. Karupa, said they were made to believe that there will be electronic timing devices in Zimbabwe, only to realise on their arrival that there were none.

Herunga is now back in training with an eye on the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.

However, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) has refused to accept the blame from Namibia.

“We never had national championships last weekend. And our association never invited any international delegations. The last time we invited Namibia was in June at the Southern Regional Championships, and they did not turn up,” said NAAZ president Joseph Mungwari.

It has emerged that there was a mix-up between the organisers of the event that Herunga attended, her coach and NAAZ.

“We went for the national championships in a small mining town, which was very far from Harare,” said Karupa.

NAAZ said the race was the Chamber of Mines tournament which is organised by the mines and was held in Gaths Mine, Masvingo, where no Olympic Qualifying resources were needed.

August 2008
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