By Don Makanyanga
Harare, – THREE time Comrades Marathon winner Stephen Muzhingi has hailed the coming in of JM Busha 54 races to partner the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe in sponsoring local marathon races in the country.
In an interview with RadioVop on Sunday at the first qualifying race of the much anticipated JM Busha 54 races set for May 25 in the capital, Muzhingi said this was a welcome development in a situation where companies have largely shunned the spot.
“This is a good thing to our sport and JM Busha should be commended for such noble gesture to sponsor ultra marathon as very few companies have been eager to sponsor marathon in the past and this will go a long way in developing the sport in the country.
“In the past sponsors have been shunning long distances athletics in favour of short distance ones which was a sad thing for the sport considering the talent we have in the country,” said Muzhingi.
He was speaking on the sidelines on the first edition of the JM Busha 54 races held in Harare over the weekend where more than 400 participants converged at the National Sports Stadium B arena to participate in different track and field events.
Because of lack of sponsorship for long distance runners in Zimbabwe, Muzhingi said, he had become more popular in South Africa and foreign lands than he was in his home country.
He said the sponsorship will help in discovering more talent which has remained idle.
The long distance runner said the new sponsorship would help the country’s attempts to scale the heights of countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia which are known for long distance runners.
Meanwhile, National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (Naaz) vice president in charge of development Enias Nhoro told RadioVop that he was delighted with the number of participants that graced the inaugural qualifying race on Sunday.
“This is a record number of participants that have come at this edition and we are expecting a much more improved field when we hold the final qualifying race in Bulawayo on March 11.
“We would like to thank JM Busha for partnering us and giving a platform for our athletes to showcase their talents,” Nhoro said.
Two qualifying races will be held ahead of the final race on May 25, with the top 16 in each category automatically qualifying for the May 25 race.
JM Busha unveiled a sponsorship package worth more than $ 300 000 dollars for the JM Busha 54 races.