Rhoda's achievement draws emotions
Updated: Mar 22
Cometh the moment, cometh the woman.
On a bright Saturday afternoon, Rhoda Njobvu rewrote Zambian sports history books by becoming the first female sprint athlete locally to qualify for the Olympic Games in 100 metres with a recording setting 11.12 seconds time.
Never before has it been done or witnessed that a Zambian runner has qualified for the games on home soil since the country became an independent state in 1964.
What’s more, Njobvu is only the sixth female runner that will represent Zambia at the games since 2000.
It has been a long wait not only for her but many that believed she could make it despite the many hurdles that stood in her way.
Two weeks ago when she missed the opportunity by a millisecond, it looked like the end of the road especially that time was now running out for her to make it to what is considered the biggest multi-sport event in the world.
Despite the emotional breakdown that day when she clocked 11.16 seconds, missing out on the required 11.15 second’s time, she did not back down this time around as she stormed the finish line in record-breaking time ahead of Lumeka Katundu, and Ruth Mutale as well as five others including Josephine Lupenga, Taonga Chirwa, Blessing Miyambo, Hellen Makumba, and Suwilanji Mpondela, in that order.
She was emotional again too this time, except at this particular point, all tears that poured down her cheeks were filled with joy and disbelief at the remarkable and also jaw-dropping achievement.
“I’m so excited,” she said while attempting to hold back her tears, “I thank God for helping me to qualify today, it hasn’t been an easy journey, there have been a lot of hiccups here and there but I thank God.”
It has definitely been a long road for her going as far back as March 2019 when World Athletics announced the qualifying times.
Since that time there have been several failed attempts from African Games in Morocco in August 2019 to the Continental Tour in Kenya in October last year and four All-Comers Meets.
After breaking the duck of qualifying in 100m. Njobvu feels she is not done yet as she revealed eyeing the 200m category as well.
“I am going to qualify even for 200 metres and going into the Olympics I am eyeing 10.85 seconds so that I qualify for the final.”
“If I reach the final anything can happen, I can find myself winning a medal for my country”
For Douglas Kalembo, her coach, Njobvu’s qualification is one he could only describe as a ‘huge achievement’.
“When I met Rhoda, she did not come with a talent, she came with a heart and that made me determined to train with her and she gave it herself.”
Coronavirus had posed its challenges for Njobvu in her qualification process that she could not take part in a number of international meets due to travel restrictions but Kalembo credits her determination and the working relationship she maintained with him during training.
“It has been so hard because you do not know what is going to happen, you do not know when the world is going to open but because we had a bond that no matter what, we will do whatever it takes. In any way, we will qualify and here we are today, we did it.”
Njobvu joins fellow sprinter Sydney Siame, boxers Stephen Zimba, Patrick Chinyemba and Evaristo Mulenga as well as the Zambia national women’s soccer team as the only athletes to have qualified for the Games thus far while Swimmers Tilka Paljk and Ralph Goveia are accepted to take part as wild card picks.