BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE triple jump sensation Chengetayi Mapaya is basking in glory after a memorable weekend in which he qualified for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Track and Field Championships to be held in Qatar from September 27 to October 6.
The 20-year-old student, who is on a track and field scholarship at Texas Christian University (TCU) in the United States, underlined his status as one of the rising stars in the sport after winning the triple jump title at the prestigious NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Texas last Friday.
Mapaya, who was in third place going into his sixth and final jump, flew 17,13 metres — the first time he has jumped over 17m in his young career — in the process passing up event leader and pre-competition favourite Jordan Scott of Virginia (17,01m) to win the national championship.
It was TCU’s first national title in track and field since American professional track and field athlete Ronnie Baker won the 60m dash in 2016.
More importantly, Mapaya’s massive leap, which is the 12th best triple jump mark in the world at the moment, ensured he booked his ticket to the World Championships in Doha.
“I had the advantage in that I was the last jumper, so I actually knew what I had to jump,” Mapaya said.
“It was amazing. I’ve always wanted to jump 17 meters and 56 feet. I believed and I did it.”
Mapaya, who earned First Team All-America Honors, shattered his own school record of 16,64m (54-7,25), set earlier this season at the National Relay Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The former George’s College student paid tribute to his coaches for his success.
“I want to thank all my coaches, friends and everyone who is a part of me. Without everyone’s support I would not have gotten here. My emotions are confused right now but I’m happy.
“I have qualified for the IAAF World Championships in September, so the grind doesn’t stop. Grateful for my second year in America and best believe there is more,” he said in a post on his Instagram page.
Qualifying for the World Championships will be the first step in Mapaya’s goal of not only qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games but also make it to the final of the global quadrennial showpiece.