TANZANIE: Mbaraka James in the footsteps of Filbert Bayi

Lining up against one of the country’s most versatile runners didn’t deter the unheralded Mbaraka James on his way to winning the men’s 1500m at the Tanzanian Championships, which drew to a close on Sunday (13) after two days of action at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

Jointly organised by National Sports Council (NSC), the Tanzanian Olympic Committee (TOC) and Athletics Tanzania (AT), the Tanzanian Championships took place for the first time in five years and brought together more than 200 athletes from 28 regions of the country.

James, representing the Tanga Region, won the 1500m in 3:47.12, beating Gabriel Geay – who has represented Tanzania at global and area championships – and Epimak Boniface. He started some distance behind Geay and Boniface, but gradually made up the distance on the pair. On the final lap, he overtook the duo to emerge the winner.

“It’s a National Championships, so I expected it to be a tough race,” said the 19-year-old. “My coach told me to train hard and follow his instructions, so I did exactly that and won. In Tanga, few people are involved in athletics, but with my achievement at this National Championships, many youngsters will follow into my footsteps.”

Former world record-holder Filbert Bayi, whose best of 3:32.2 still stands as the national record, is one of James’ idols.

“I can see myself becoming a top athlete,” he said. “My performance here has motivated me to work extra hard and reach the levels of my idol, Filbert Bayi.”

Angelina Tsele and Grace Charles, winners of the women’s 5000m and 1500m respectively, appreciated the opportunity to compete at a national championships. “Racing on this track against top athletes from other regions was not that easy, but I am happy that I have performed well,” said Tsele.

“Thanks to the full involvement of the TOC, the championships were very competitive,” added Charles. “I’m looking forward to representing the country at future international events.”

Athletics Tanzania’s acting secretary general Ombeni Zavalla and Vice PresidentKallaghe hailed the support from the government and promised that next year they will come back even stronger.

“After a five-year absence, this year we are back,” said Zavalla. “We really appreciate the support we received from the government and TOC to successfully host this event. I promise that next year we will host a championship even more successful than this year.”

The two-day event was officially opened by Ally Possi, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information, Arts, Culture and Sports.

“We will continue working with Athletics Tanzania and all stakeholders to help develop the sport,” he said. “We are committed to developing this sector as we know that, if well managed, it can be a source of income to many families.”

Coast Region emerged the overall winner of the championships, earning 12 medals (five gold, six silver and one bronze).

Robert Kalyahe, Secretary General of athletics in the Coast Region, attributed the success of his team to the support they receive from stakeholders, which includes the Filbert Bayi Foundation (FBF).

“This is a great achievement to our region,” said Kalyahe, “but this has come due to the hard work of our athletes, coaches, leaders of our association and the support we get from the Filbert Bayi Foundation.”

Joseph Mchekadona for World Athletics

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