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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One on one with The “Mandedza Express”; Ngoni Makusha

Since the retirement of Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria providing a glimmer of brilliance in his performance when he set the new African record back in 2006 of 9.85 sec, the African sprint scene had gone barren save for Gerald Phiri of Zambia who has been very consistent in running in the low 10’s until he in fact recently set a new Zambian national record in the 100 meters when he clocked 10.06sec breaking the 35 year old record at the Texas Relays in Austin Texas earlier this year. But all of a sudden Africa is thrust into the glare with the performance of Ngonidzashe Makusha of Zimbabwe whom we have dubbed the ‘Mandedza Express’ when he ran a 9.97 sec in the 100 meters at the ACC Championships and then explodes for a 9.89 seconds performance at the NCAA Outdoor Nationals in Iowa breaking the NCAA record set by Ato Boldon of Trinidad and the Zimbabwean national record that he had set earlier when he ran a 9.97 Sec at the ACC Championships.
Ngoni Makusha came to the USA specifically to Florida State University (FSU) on an athletic scholarship. Hailing from the suburb of Chitungwiza outside of Harare Zimbabwe where he attended High School at Mandedza High School. Makusha has always shown promise from a rather young age. His main focus has always been the Long Jump but as one would expect the speed that he had developed in training for the long Jump carried over into the 100 meters in fact after he shattered the NCAA 100 meters record he was compared to the likes of Track and Field legends such as Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens; athletes who were both long jumpers and sprinters. Ngoni has a bright future ahead of himself and with an accomplished Coach and fellow Zimbabwean by his side in Ken Harnden he is almost guaranteed success in his career I said almost because his only limitation now would only be himself.
There have been quite a number of articles already on Makusha and having done a bit or research before piecing this article together we decided to dub him ‘The Mandedza Express’ a title borrowed from an article written by Godknows Matarutse of the Zimbabwe Herald based on his rise to fame from his school days at Mandedza High where it all took off for Ngoni.

After Makusha broke the NCAA and Zimbabwean national record I caught up with him and we spoke at length about his performance and his future and here is that interview;

ASM: First of all what part of Zimbabwe are you from
Ngoni: I am from Chitungwiza; it is one of the small cities just outside of Harare
ASM: How long have you been in the USA?
Ngoni: I have been here for like four years now
ASM: And all this time you have been with the Seminoles at FSU right?
Ngoni: Yes, I just came here for school at Florida State University

ASM: You got recruited to compete for FSU…. am I right?
Ngoni: Yes, yes they recruited me to come join the Track team
ASM: Tell us how you got recruited
Ngoni: well I was competing in Zimbabwe and doing very well and then I went to the Junior World Championships, the All-African Games and many other meets and Coach noticed me and he happens to be from Zimbabwe too and that’s how it all started
ASM: So were you running at the time or Long Jumping when you got recruited, because the one thing that really sticks out about your career is your Long Jump which is pretty phenomenal and that’s how we got to notice you while doing daily media coverage here at African Sports Media Network we noticed that you were putting out these spectacular jumps when you competed but were you always competing in the 100 meters as well all this time?

Ngoni: I was doing both I did both the Long Jump and the 100 meters but when I came to College I started focusing more on the Long Jump but I have always been a sprinter and a long Jumper.

ASM: Now you have been quite dominant this Season at the Long Jump you are the current world leader in the event, you even set a new national Record for Zimbabwe at 8.40meters, what would you attribute your success to in the Long Jump, is it your Speed or your Technique
Ngoni: ….hmmmm….. I think my speed has been very critical to my long jump because I need that velocity to carry me and so I feel that my speed plays a big part in my Long Jump
ASM: Tell us what your personal goals on the Long Jump are…. I know you like other athletes dream of Olympic Gold and all but tell us what your end game is towards the Long Jump
Ngoni: My Personal Goal for the Long Jump is just like the 100 meters for me, I want to do good I want to be one of the best Long Jumpers in the world maybe go on to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics and other major international meets.

ASM: Mentioning the 100meters again; you now own two national records for Zimbabwe, tell us what you think about breaking those records and what that means to you
Ngoni: If you look at these record before I broke them the NCAA 100 meters record was held by Ato Boldon and for me to go out there and break his record it is something that makes me feel good and that I am blessed and I feel like I have been highly favored just to be in this position.

ASM: This season you have come out blazing in the 100 meters capturing the world’s attention with a 9.97sec performance at the ACC meet and now a 9.89 sec at the NCAA Outdoors meet in Iowa in the process you have set a new National Record for Zimbabwe and an NCAA record as well tell us how do you feel about all this developments for you
Ngoni: well I have decided to go pro so I can compete at the next level
ASM: With those times obviously you are ready to go head to head with the Usain Bolts of the World right?
Ngoni: Yes I feel like that’s where I am headed now …… and I feel that I am ready to compete with the best athletes of the world
ASM: You now have the fourth fastest 100 meters time ever ran by an African, after Frankie Fredericks of Namibia (9.86sec), Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria who is the African Record holder at the 100 meter with a time of 9.85sec and then Francis Obikwelu a Nigerian (9.86sec) who is now a Portuguese citizen how do feel about being in the class of these great names and do you feel you will ever break the African Record
Ngoni: I am not really that kind of a person who chases records but obviously breaking records is important in any sports but it not really my main focus and my main focus is really to go out there and get better as an athlete and if I end up breaking a record then that’s fine by me and I feel like I can run faster and if I improve and I run fast enough for a new African Record then I will be thankful

ASM: Talking about the African record… we have three major events coming in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu South Korea, the All-African Games in Maputo Mozambique and then the London 2012 Olympic Games, now what are you plans in competing in these three events coming up
Ngoni: uhh… my plan is to go out there and compete just like any other athlete but I don’t really know what my Coach has in store for me yet and I am still waiting on my Coach to make that decision and see where we go from here. It has been a long season already for me and we will see if we do get to go to the World Championships and then the All- African Games and about the All African Games I really want to compete in that meet

ASM: Okay that is really a breath of fresh air coming from a top performer like you, because you know we are usually missing out on the top performers at the All African Games which is Africa’s Olympics so it will be great to have you come out there and see if you can come through with a meet record. It will really be great for the games in Maputo
Now what’s your perspective on the 2012 London Olympic Games how do you plan on preparing for the summer games next year?
Ngoni: The Olympics are always a big event and athletes always come out with surprising performances and this year so far as far as the sprints goes there have been quite a number of fast sprinters out there and so I believe that the Olympics are going to be quite spectacular
ASM: You guys (Zimbabwe) have a strong stable of sprinters out there, quite a number of you have been running in the low 10’s or high 9’s what do you think your chances are as a team in the 4 x 100 meters relays to medal in the major events like the World Championships or the Olympics
Ngoni: We are looking good right now but the relays are quite a technical event; you can have the fastest guys in the world but still not be able to get the stick around. I do think we have a very strong team and I feel like if we work very well together we can win the 4 X 100meter relay at the All-African Games to start with.
ASM: So which one of your Zimbabwean teammates do you train with at this time in Florida?
Ngoni: Right now I train with Brian Dzingai the Zimbabwean record holder in the 200 meters and Paul Madzivire a freshman, he just came here from Zimbabwe he is a long Jumper as well and the Coach Ken Harnden, he is also from Zimbabwe those are the only Zimbabwean I know of down here in Florida the other Zimbabweans training here in the States are Gabriel Mvumvure he trains in Indiana and Lewis Banda he is in Texas but only four of us are here in Florida
ASM: I believe that when it comes time for you guys to put a team together it will make sense for you guys to meet up in one spot and train together for a while before a major meet what do you think.
Ngoni: Yes I think it will be very convenient for us to meet out here in Tallahassee Florida to train together we have nice weather, nice facilities and a Coach who is Zimbabwean so I think it will make sense to do meet here in Tallahassee Florida.
ASM: Talking about Brian Dzingai the 200 meters record holder for Zimbabwe, you have been compared to legendary athletes like Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens who also went out and did the 200 meters event do you ever plan on trying the 200 meters
Ngoni: No no ……. I don’t have the intention of ever trying the 200 meters we have never talked about that with my Coach but who knows what the future holds maybe next season I will try it who knows and see how it turns out.
ASM: Now as far as African Sprinting goes, you guys are making Africa proud, when you broke the NCAA 100 meters record recently you ran against another African in that race in Gerald Phiri of Zambia who goes to Texas A&M, what do you think of Gerald.
Ngoni: Gerald is very good Athlete, he is very talented, he is fast, he has posted some very good times out here he ran a couple of 10.0 in one competition recently, I really respect him you know and am happy that we Africans are out there showing others in the world that we can compete with the rest of the world I was very proud to see another African next to me on the starting line at the NCAA finals
ASM: Now as far as prospects goes towards the Olympics Zimbabwe has a Golden Girl in Kirsty Coventry the swimmer now we are looking at you to pick up the torch as far as the 100 meters and the long jump goes to bring home the Gold for Zimbabwe and for Africa I know it’s a lot to carry a lot of peoples hopes but what do you think about people pinning their hopes on you
Ngoni: Hmmm I think it comes with what I do so I don’t think it’s any pressure on me. I have shown that I can perform at the level of other World Class Athletes. So I don’t think I feel that people are putting any pressure on me People have to understand that when it comes to medals it is not something you say you are going to go out there and get a medal just like that when the competition level is so tough these days but I think it is a blessing from God when you do win one because you have to prepare right just as everyone else has prepared equally. For me I will take my time to do what I do and go out there and perform and when that day comes if it happens it happens but I believe it’s up to me to do the hard work and go out there and perform

ASM: When you broke the 100 meters record did you get any calls from the Sports Officials in Zimbabwe to congratulate you?
Ngoni: No I have not received any calls from the sports officials in Zimbabwe yet …. I have not spoken to anyone yet
ASM: Do you follow the local news on the internet and is there any local coverage of your running in Zimbabwe that you are aware of
Ngoni: yeah there have been a couple articles out there which are very important you know. Media coverage is very important because people need to be aware that there is a Zimbabwean doing what other are doing out here in the world. Because a lot of people in Zimbabwe and Africa look up to what other countries you know, they follow the Jamaicans or the Americans and they need to know that they have Zimbabweans and other Africans out here who are equally as good.
ASM: Well we have been doing our best here at African Sports Media Network to cover you guys and we do report all daily sports stories on our daily site AFRICAN SPORTS TV in fact if you check out the site we reposted the story about you going pro on African Sports TV and we want people to know about what you guys do and appreciate what you do and this interview we are doing will be on the Spotlight Section on African Sports TV and on our Magazine AFRICAN SPORTS MONTHLY .
We are happy to cover you and we will continue to do so, we appreciate you giving us the time to do so and hopefully one of these days you will be a gold medalist
Ngoni: No problem.