ZIMBABWE’S World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight boxing champion Charles Manyuchi is the front-runner to retain the prestigious Sportsperson of the Year gong after he was shortlisted for the Annual National Sports Awards (ANSA) yesterday.
The nominees were unveiled at a ceremony hosted by the Sports and Recreation Commission with the organisers announcing yet another reduced sponsorship for the banquet from $30 000 to $20 000.
Manyuchi, who won the award for the first time in his career last year, successfully defended his title when he dismantled Italian Gianculla Frezza in the sixth round in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, in July.
The historic victory, which saw Manyuchi receiving $50 000 from President Robert Mugabe as a reward for defending his title, makes him the overwhelming favourite to claim the top prize at a banquet set for Harare on December 16.
The 26-year-old boxer was also nominated for the Sportsman of the Year award, where he will face competition from karatekas Admire Chingozhoro and Tangayi Mighty Mhlanga, who also enjoyed success on the international scene.
Chingozhoro’s major success of the year came three months ago when he clinched the second So-Kyokushin International Karate Tournament Ohishi Cup’s Open weight category title in Iran, while in June, Mhlanga came second in the World Fighting Kyokushin Tournament held in Spain.
Zimbabwe’s senior women football team, the Mighty Warriors, who made history by becoming the first team sporting code to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, are also heavily tipped to win the Team of the Year Award.
The other nominees in the Team of the Year Award category are the national Sevens rugby team and the senior national netball team.
Mighty Warriors coach Shadreck Mulauzi will battle it out for the Coach of the Year award with national Sevens rugby team coach Daniel Hondo and netball’s Ledwin Dondo.
The Sportswoman of the Year Award will be contested between the most decorated Olympic athlete, swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry, top female bodybuilder Helen Costa and Olympic rower Micheen Thornycroft.
Coventry has a very good chance of landing the award after a superb return on the international scene following a long absence from the pool after the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Britain.
The seven-time Olympic medallist, who has already qualified for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, won three gold medals at the 2015 All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo.
It marked her third time completing the triple three-peat at the continental championships, going back to 2007 and 2011.
In addition to the top prize, five other categories, namely Sports Administration of the Year, Sports Development of the Year, Special Acknowledgements Awards and the Junior Sportsperson of the Year, will be announced on the day of the awards.
The chairman of the judges’ panel for the awards, Titus Zvomuya, said there was a significant improvement from last year in terms of responses from the sports associations.
“I must say 2015 was a very exciting year for us as the judges’ panel as there were a number of notable developments specifically in certain areas where in the past we had struggled to come up with the candidates. We were also impressed with some of the associations who submitted their nominees, but again, we did struggle with the few associations who were not able to submit their nominations. We would want the input to come from the associations and not the other way round,” he said.