Stricken sprinter remains defiant
By Robson Sharuko
HARARE – FIVE months ago, Gabriel Mvumvure was pursuing one of the greatest dreams for the world’s elite athletes, trying to win a medal at the Olympic Games in Brazil.
But, now, the Zimbabwean sprinter lies stricken in the United States fighting the biggest race of his life.
The 28-year-old sprinter did not only share the stage with global sporting icons like Jamaican legend, Usain Bolt, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August last year but was even handed the honour to be Zimbabwe’s flag bearer at the 2016 Olympics.
For Mvumvure, this was a dream come true.
For 10 years, he had represented his nation with honour – starting at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing, China, coming sixth in the 200m dash at the All-Africa Games in Algeria the following year where he was part of the sprinters who won bronze in the 4 x 100m relay and then impressing at the African Junior Champions in Burkina Faso that same year.
He would fly his country’s flag again at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany, at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea and finishing 19th, overally, in the 100m at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, after clocking 10.21 seconds.
Mvumvure also represented Zimbabwe at the 2016 African Championships in Durban, South Africa, where he finished 11th in the 100m and fourth in the 200m after stopping the clocks at 20.83s.
Wayde van Niekerk won that race and a few months later the South African sprinter would hold the world spellbound after breaking United States’ sprinting legend Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old 400m world record as he powered to gold at the Rio Olympics by running 43.03s in lane eight.
Mvumvure failed to make the semi-finals in the 100m in Rio, being eliminated after finishing seventh in heat five of his 100m race in 10.28s, and described it as part of the challenges that come with competing with the best in the world.
“These are some of the heartbreaks that come with the Olympics. The unfortunate thing is I have to wait four years again for me to be able to get revenge or anything,” he said.
“But it was one of those races where I was confident although I didn’t have as many races as I wanted to be able to be sharp at this meet. But I mean when you are at the Olympics you are at the Olympics, you can’t cry foul and complain about this and that.
“So, I was ready, I felt really good with what I was about to do. I wish it was a little faster but it’s up and gone. When you are around so many people that are good starters at times you don’t happen to be so exceptional whenever you are around them.
“But it was just one of those races. I wish I could have had a chance or an opportunity to re-do it again in the semi-finals but it’s just not going to happen. I was in really good shape.”
However, if Mvumvure felt disappointed by what happened in Rio, then the worst was about to come.
Shortly after his Rio dance, the sprinter was diagnosed with kidney failure, due to high blood pressure, and needed a kidney transplant.
“It was around October, I just started feeling like I had stomach pains. I was getting sick, nauseous, fevers, and I felt like I was about to pass out. So then the paramedics got called and took me to the hospital,” Mvumvure, who was a national sprinting champion at Louisiana State University in the United States, said in a video recording.
“Unfortunately, my kidneys had worsened because they were struggling monitoring my blood pressure or lowering it down. That caused a lot of damage on my kidneys.
“One doctor in the hospital told me you have about five or six years (to live). That’s what he’s seen in young people. And I would love, and believe I have a life ahead of me.
“If I want to live a normal life, I have to do a transplant because they say dialysis in young people really cuts your life span. I don’t know, it’s something within me being an athlete. I believe that it doesn’t matter how big an obstacle is there’s always some way to get out.
“I just hope that we reach the goal, but if we don’t reach the goal I’ll still be grateful that they at least gave me an opportunity to live this out.”
His old college, through the Tiger Athletic Foundation, have been trying to raise US$250,000 for the kidney transplant and the medical care he needs after the surgery.
So far, US$16,325 has been raised with 147 people donating to the cause in about a month.
And Mvumvure is fighting on.
“This kidney failure has been the most challenging situation I have ever faced in my life because I don’t get a chance to take a break and figure it out.
“If I’m not dialyzing, I’m recovering from the treatment, if I’m not eating I’m figuring out what to eat because of strict diet restrictions, if I’m enjoying a nice glass of water my head is reminding me to drink enough but not too much to give me fluid overload,” the athlete revealed on social media.
“Then I look in the mail and the medical bills show me they haven’t gone anywhere, then I look at money raised and I look to heaven and ask ‘Dear God will I ever get to have this transplant? Today, He said ‘Be still and know that I am GOD’. I know life can be like a hamster wheel but please be encouraged in knowing God has you.
“Please help raise money for my transplant by sharing this page and or donating. If you have already shared, may you please share just one more time, I would be so grateful. Thank you for your support guys! ONWARD WE MARCH.”