Zimbabwean sprinter and gold medalist Elliot Mujaji failed Thursday to advance to the next stage of the London Paralympic Games after coming 5th in a tightly contested 100 meters sprint heats.
Mujaji joined his colleague, wheelchair tennis player Nyasha Mharakurwa, who also bit the dust when he fell to defending champion and number one singles wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kunieda of Japan.
The Zimbabwean, ranked 88th in the world, made it to the second round of the game.
Though the games are Mharakurwa’s first ever in such competitions, commentators said he is expected to make it to the top in the near future.
According to sports analyst and SW Radio Africa correspondent Ezra Tshisa Sibanda, the two athletes showed tenacity in representing Zimbabwe.
Sibanda commended the athletes for fighting to the bitter end in various events featuring top athletes from powerhouses such as China, Japan, U.S and Great Britain.
Many critics said Zimbabwean athletes are being let down by the government and struggling business sector as they get little funding for taking part in world events.
Interview With Ezra 'Tshisa' Sibanda
The 40-year-old Mujaji won Zimbabwe's first Paralympic medal at the games in Sydney, Australia, in 2000 and another gold in the 2004 Athens Games.
In a Facebook message, Education and Sport Minister David Coltart said the athlete did well despite being one of the oldest competitors.
“He (Mujaji) has been a source of inspiration to many Zimbabweans and we are so proud of all that he has done for Zimbabwe over so many years … He has had a remarkable career,” said Coltart.
Mujaji, once a member of Zimbabwe's national athletics team, qualified to compete in the 1998 Commonwealth Games before suffering severe burns in a power accident at work.
He remained in a coma for two months after his arm was amputated. The athlete resumed training after recovering and qualified to compete in the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney where he was the fastest runner in the heats of the 200 metres sprint but was disqualified for having encroached on another athlete’s lane.
He won gold in the 100 metres sprint event - Zimbabwe's first ever Paralympic gold medal.
Meanwhile, the International Paralympic Committee ruled Wednesday there is no evidence to back up a complaint made by South Africa that athletes are switching the size of their blades during the London games.
South Africa’s National Paralympic Committee requested an investigation after Oscar Pistorious accused Brazil’s Alan Oliveira of gaining an unfair advantage by running on lengthened blades in winning the 200 meters Sunday.