Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
GALLANT performances by the Gems at the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England, is a confirmation that the Sports and Recreation Commission’s National Youth Games is beginning to bear fruit.
The National Youth Games were launched in 2003 with the aim of stimulating participation, growth and development of sport among the country’s youths while also serving as a national premier platform to identify, test, measure, evaluate and develop talent for local, regional and international events in line with the SRC Strategic Plan.
More than a decade later, the nation is now celebrating partial success of these objectives as witnessed by the senior national netball team’s performance in the World Cup.
All of coach Lloyd Makunde’s chosen girls except for one for the premier netball competition are products of the National Youth Games.
The girls were identified during youth games as raw talent before being refined into perfect weapons of destruction by the various clubs they are now playing for in the Rainbow Amateur Netball League.
The Gems have so far won three times against Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and Barbados and lost to defending champions Australia and New Zealand at the World Cup.
Australian-based goal shooter Joice Takaidza is presently the leading scorer in the World Cup with 118 goals followed by South Africa’s Lenize Potgieter with 111.
It has been a fairy tale rise, especially for Ursula Ndlovu, who represented Bulawayo in the 2011 National Youth Games in Gwanda when she competed and won gold in high jump, 400 metres and relay before turning to netball in 2013 when she was drafted into the City of Kings’ provincial netball team for similar games.
Pauline Jani was a member of the Bulawayo Youth Games team in 2008 when Midlands hosted the Games.
“Yes she played for us as well as Felistas Kwangwa, who was part of Team Bulawayo from 2011 up to 2014 when age no longer allowed her to compete in the Games.
As for Ursula, we used to play with her mum while she was competing for the province in athletics,” said Lisa Mangena, who should be credited for helping in nurturing the girls’ netball careers.
What has worked in favour of the Gems is that there has generally been no age cheating in netball compared to other sporting disciplines like football and athletics.
“The Zimbabwe National Youth Games are a platform to select talent from around the country.
These youngsters will be coming to exhibit their sporting potential before their talent is developed even further after being identified at these Games,” said Martin Dururu, the SRC sport development manager.