The past years have seen a huge influx of Zimbabwean students enroling into Chinese universities. It is estimated about 20 000 Zimbabwean students are in Chinese universities across China. The influx is not limited to students but also business people and workers. China through its FOCAC engagement with Africa has presented so many opportunities to Africa and the world at large. Many Africans in China have done things they never thought they could achieve in their lifetime. Be it in businesses, talent exhibition and even the birth of new passions.
When they left home for China to study, never had they dreamed of one day standing on a world arena representing their country Zimbabwe in a sport that is an alien to their home. For Tinotenda Makuza and his fellow students, joining the Dragon Boat race was just for fun and it was in fun that success was born.
On 2-4 November the city of Ningbo in China hosted the 2019 International Canoe Federation（ICF) Dragon Boat World Cup. It saw more than 300 000 spectators at the venue during the three day competition. There we 34 teams and 29 nations competing for the world cup and Zimbabwe was surprisingly among the nations that took part in the competition and they did well in their category, 200m and 500m races without even their country aware of the great representation.
The Zimbabwe team reached the Men's 10 by 500m finals which they performed so well that they got an invitation to take part in the upcoming world cup to be held in India in 2020. Even though they had limited time to prepare they showed the resilient side of Zimbabweans and their determination to face it against all odds.
The sport tournament was organised by the ICF and Chinese Canoe Association. China Dragonboat Team and Chinese Ningbo Dragonboat Team dominated the event.
A dragon boat is a human-powered boat or paddle boat that is traditionally made of teak wood to various designs and sizes. They usually have brightly decorated designs that range anywhere from 40 to 100 feet in length, with the front end shaped like open-mouthed dragons, and the back end with a scaly tail. The boat can have up to 80 rowers to power the boat, depending on the length. A sacred ceremony is performed before any competition in order to “bring the boat to life” by painting the eyes. The first team to grab a flag at the end of the course wins the race. It is from this traditional Chinese Dragon Festival game that a sport was born and is to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Dragonboat Race is an alien sport in Zimbabwe and to have a team represent Zimbabwe is a national achievement. The young men pushed themselves in a limited time to prepare for the world tournament. Them deciding to proudly raise the Zimbabwean flag voluntarily is an act of patriotism that deserves recognition. The team which goes by the name Zimbabwe Lion Dragon Boat Team is made up of students in Sanming.
Speaking to ZekeyMedia, Tinotenda Makuza one of the team members expressed his excitement in having to raise his country's flag at that big tournament together with his teammates. He said that they will continue training ahead of 2020 World Cup to be held in India and also concentrate on their studies as that is the main reason they are in China. Them representing Zimbabwe makes them ambassadors and the nation should rally behind them. The team was captained by Munashe Chihambakwe and coached by a Chinese, Mr Ling. The spirit of togetherness and taking pride in national identity made these young men stand out among the best.
The Team line up
Lawrence Chatara Msonza
Nkosilathi M Mutsago
Even though some female students expressed their willingness to join, they were not enough to make up a team and hoped that more females will join them to form the female team.
Recently we have seen another Chinese sport Ping pong or Table Tennis being revived in Zimbabwe. However, these sports are limited in their growth as the Ministry of Sports does not recognise them in mainstream sports like football. The Zimbabwe Lion Dragon Boat Team were privileged to have gotten sponsorship for this tournament, however, there is no telling what might happen in future if sponsorship is not available.
Zimbabwe should take pride in celebrating these young men for putting the country's name on world map of sports.
BACKGROUNG OF THE SPORT
China is a culturally rich country and has been able to preserve their valued cultural heritage for
generations to come. During the 5th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, China celebrates the Dragon Boat Festival. This holiday revolves around a Chinese myth in honor of Qu Yuan, who is known as China's first poet.
The festival was long marked as a cultural holiday in China. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that the Dragon Boat Festival was recognized as a traditional and statutory public holiday in the People's Republic of China.
The festival commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, who was a loyal minister of the King of Chu in the third century BCE. Qu Yuan’s wisdom and intellectual ways antagonized other court officials, thus they accused him of false charges of conspiracy and was exiled by the king. During his exile, Qu Yuan composed many poems to express his anger and sorrow towards his sovereign and people.
Qu Yuan drowned himself by attaching a heavy stone to his chest and jumping into the Miluo River in 278 BCE at the age of 61. The people of Chu tried to save him believing that Qu Yuan was an honorable man; they searched desperately in their boats looking for Qu Yuan but were unable to save him. Every year the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate this attempt at rescuing Qu Yuan.
The local people began the tradition of throwing sacrificial cooked rice into the river for Qu Yuan, while others believed that the rice would prevent the fishes in the river from eating Qu Yuan’s body. At first, the locals decided to make zongzi in hopes that it would sink into the river and reach Qu Yuan's body. However, the tradition of wrapping the rice in bamboo leaves to make zongzi began the following year.
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