This week’s #FlashBackFriday takes us express to Maputo, to meet The Maputo Express as we continue to remember Africa’s greats – Mozambique’s 800m legend Maria de Lurdes Mutola. She is definitely one of the many sportspeople that have won their respective countries and the African continent global accolades.
Popularly known as The Maputo Express, she started out playing football as a young girl, before she could later discover her running knack. She is currently only the 4th athlete to have competed in 6 olympic games. The olympic games happen every 4 years; meaning it took a total of 24 years of intense competition at the highest level, as a world class athlete.
She made her first olympic appearance in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, at the age of 15. She finished last, but this made her even stronger. After that, she went on to dominate the 800 m distance, winning the gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in 1993 and 1995, as well as the Stuttgart 1993 IAAF World Championships.
She won the bronze medal in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic games, and finally won a sweet Gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Mutola retired from track and field at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she sadly finished 5th, after being in contention for a medal. Mutola is often ranked as the greatest female 800m runner of all time, since her consistency, her record at major championships and her ability to compete at the highest levels of the sport for well over a decade are unmatched.
After retiring from athletics, Maria went back to her first sporting love, football. She played for Mamelodi Sundowns team in the South African women’s league. In 2011, she was captain of the Mozambique women’s national football team at the All-Africa Games in Maputo.
And in 2012, she coached South African runner Caster Semenya to a silver medal at the Olympic Games in London.
Greatness to you Maria, you’ve made us proud!
NBA & FORD PARTNER UP TO GIVE AFRICA’S BASKETBALL A RIDE
Onto matters basketball. Victor Muisyo takes us to East Africa – Nairobi, Kenya – where the inaugural Junior NBA league just concluded.
In line with nurturing budding youth talent, The National Basketball Association, NBA has recently been partnering up with a number of other organisations to promote Junior NBA leagues in various countries across Africa.
The Junior NBA Kenya League tipped off on March 11 thanks to a partnership between NBA and vehicle manufacturer Ford Motors, and on July 1st, the league was wrapping up.
The final was graced by two-time NBA winner and Golden State Warriors power forward James Michael McAdoo, NBA Africa Vice President Amadou Gallo and former five-time World Cross Country Champion Paul Tergat, among other NBA stars.
Local junior club Slums Dunk Nets won this inaugural league after beating Family Kenya Warriors 37-16.
Similar NBA programs for sponsoring youth talent are already underway in the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. On May 4 this year, NBA opened its very first Africa Academy in Senegal’s city of Thies, in an effort to scout international talent, while contributing to developing sporting talent in Africa with several training programs.
“We are committed to growing the game of basketball in Africa, so this is 12 leagues – we have 12 junior leagues in 11 different countries and we will continue to expand; We are glad to have this African countries to be part of a global platform passing now 18 million youth in 53 different countries,” NBA Africa Managing Director Amadou Gallo said, at the sidelines of the Nairobi event.
NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa programme which seeks to spot talented young stars has been on the continent a total of 12 times and the NBA also runs its ‘NBA Cares’ programme. Signaling intent to further its work in Africa, the NBA opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg South Africa, seven years ago.
With initiatives like this the NBA expects talented basketball players will develop and in the near future, many more fine athletes from Africa will be playing basketball in the U.S. and in other major leagues.Follow @Muisyo_