THE mention of names such as Vimbai Maisvoreva, Farai Masawi, Ruva Mzinde, Emmanuel Dezva, Mazvita Mtisi, Taku Samanga, Maka Charamba, Anesu Makuwatsine and Panashe Nhenga, rings a bell in the minds of those who follow short distance athletics competitions in the country.
The list above, decorated with national representatives in some regional and international competitions, is just a drop in the ocean of more than 200 gifted athletes who have come through the hands of veteran coach, Ted DeWolf.
Such is the nature of athletics that the athlete is known by all, but the coach is only known by the athlete!
Be that as it may, the above star-studded list of short distance running experts does not even include the best of athletes that DeWolf has shaped into world class athletes in decades of mentoring athletes — a good number of them being groomed from mere average performers.
“But none of these (those mentioned in the introduction) are the best I ever coached. Way back before school competitions were well organised, I coached Nelia Mushayi through Form Four when I was at Hartzell High School.
“After Form Four, she disappeared and I never saw her again. In practice sessions, she used to outpace Form Six boys. Zimbabwe missed a chance there of having a world champion in her,” he said.
DeWolf was born and raised near Boston, Massachusetts in the United States of America where in high school he was a state champion long jumper and 220 yard, which is about 200m runner.
He went to West Virginia where he captained his college American (gridiron) football team and conference champion in the 100, 220 and long jump.
He came to Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in 1965 and taught and coached at Hartzell High School until 1995 when he moved to Hillcrest College.
At Hartzell, his greatest sporting achievement was coaching the Hartzell Horses boys’ basketball team to two national titles.
Those in the know attest that DeWolf might easily have won more accolades, but refused to allow his boys to go to the nationals after winning in Manicaland because he claimed their studies were deteriorating.
“At Hillcrest in the 1990s and early 2000s, I was still coaching basketball where my boys’ and girls’ sides were very competitive, with some becoming key national team members and one going to the USA on a scholarship.
“In 2010, I started concentrating on track events where 12 of my athletes have won over 30 gold medals at national competitions,” he said.
DeWolf, not only loves athletics, but the athletes’ wellbeing as well.
“My motivation for coaching now is to see my athletes acquiring university scholarships and to use their athletics to build confidence and succeed in having full and fulfilling lives,” he said.
He finds the standards of athletics just not good enough right now.
“Sport in general took a real knock during the Covid-19 period and athletics is no exception. The standards of athletics is just not good enough right now.
“Everywhere in the world athletics has become so big over the years. Standards are incredibly high and rising every day,” he said.
On the aspect of facilities and grassroots development, DeWolf said: “At Hillcrest, I feel that they are fortunate to have good facilities. Maybe more important, large numbers of learners take part in three private schools competitions, mostly in Mashonaland.
“Then with the local schools’ competitions, my athletes can take part in six competitions before going to the national finals. They also have some electronic timing equipment that is very motivational for young athletes.”
He feels there are obviously many young athletes out there who could really thrive if every school had access to these strengths.
He said: “We need to have more athletics competitions in Manicaland to help our youngsters develop. Vimbayi Maisvorewa is striving to become a professional athlete. She had a very rural upbringing, but was fortunate that her local school, Dope, was very supportive. Her community did all they could to help her.”
DeWolf believes that Hillcrest provided a stepping stone for Maisvoreva to move on to the USA on a scholarship where she is now shining in national competitions.
DeWolf uses her as an example because she is a role model to kids with disadvantaged backgrounds. He said: “She is succeeding because she has a dream. Her determination is awesome. During the Covid-19 lockdown she practised literally every day.
“Sometimes twice. With that kind of determination, kids who are talented no matter their background, can make it!”