There is still hope, Steven can qualify
Updated: Feb 25
For Steven Mung’andu, 2021 is all about one thing; to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games, especially after missing the chance to do so from previous competitions held in 2020.
Sprinter Sydney Siame, as well as boxers Patrick Chinyemba, Evaristo Mulenga and Stephen Zimba have set the tone as being the only athletes who have qualified so far having done so by the end February last year.
There is still enough hope that Mung’andu would make it as well from Judo. The 66 kilogram category man has shown all the potential especially that he is under an Olympic scholarship in France where he has been based since March of 2019.
There has not been much competitions due to cancellations as a result of coronavirus but the judoka has been training consistently and has taken part in a few slams both in Europe and Africa to prepare for international meets that would earn him points and ensure qualification.
Last year, the opportunities eluded him by fine margins.
His first opportunity came in Cameroun at the Yaounde Open Championship where he unfortunately missed out on sealing a qualification but was good enough to earn a bronze medal in the final.
That gave hope to both Zambia Judo Association (ZJA) and his coaches too that he was close to qualifying and would do so at the next meet.
The next meet definitely came and this time it was in Dakar, Senegal in November. However, fine margins stood between him and his dreams again, losing in the final with a slight loss of concentration, consequently settling for silver at the expense of gold and Olympic qualification which went to the host country’s Gaye Serigne.
There was no room for relenting though from his federation and his coach who seemed eager to push him even further for the next event which was the African Judo championship in Madagascar with a hope that this would be his moment.
“We don’t want to relent to say just because he is almost qualifying we sit back, we are trying to look at the next competitions on how he can improve and I have written notes for him,” Coach Lipimile Moola said immediately after getting back to Zambia after the meet in Senegal.
"Reasons for his personal belief and perhaps even that of his technical bench of him qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics seem valid considering his quick progression in the last two years."
In Madagascar, Mung’andu missed out again, this time in the semi-final. He had to settle for bronze.
But not all hope is lost as he has another chance to achieve qualification in May this year at the African Judo Championships which will be staged in Morocco from May 20 to 30th.
His technical bench, especially coach Lipimile remains positive about his chances to make it: “Our chances are very high.”
Following his performance in Madagascar, his world ranking improved from 64th to 53rd with 960 points from 610 which he previously had.
This provides even further hope that qualification for Mung’andu is all but a matter of time for him to join the Tokyo contingent.
As of early February this year, the judoka who had been on a short holiday in Zambia returned to his base France where he has continued his training and he too seems optimistic about what is coming ahead.
“I will continue my training for the Africa Senior Championship slated for May in Morocco and sealing my qualification for the Olympics.”
Reasons for his personal belief and perhaps even that of his technical bench of him qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics seem valid considering his quick progression in the last two years. A period in which he has even gained recognition at the international stage.
The 25 year old could be on a plane to Tokyo if delivers another medal moment at the next championship in May.