Traditionally every year, the SRC invites a world-renowned athlete to add international flavour to the awards gala.
This has seen the occasion being graced by the likes of such international superstars as Sachin Tendulkar of India, two time Olympic 200m silver medalists Frankie Fredericks of Nambia, and former South African international cricketer Mike Proctor, amongst many other international stars.
However, sources have revealed that this will not be the case this year after the Commission’s targets, former Kenyan Olympic Middle distance champions, Kipchoge Keino and South African boxing legend Jacob ‘Baby Jack’Matlala are not available. Matlala has turned down the invitation as he is at the moment unable to travel outside South Africa for unexplained reasons.
According to Sports and Recreation Commission director general Charles Nhamachena, Keino has also indicated that he will not be available as other engagements have just come up in his country on the day he was supposed to be in Zimbabwe.
This is the second year running that the awards will be missing an international star after Maria Lurdes Mutola of Mozambique and South African cricketer, Makhaya Ntini also turned down invitations at the last minute.
Instead, the SRC have now turned to local hero, the internationally acknowledged former pistol shooter, Dave Ian Westerhout, to present the awards.
Westerhout has a chequered and illustrious sporting career that in 1977 saw him win the world combat pistol championship and in the process was crowned the Zimbabwe Sportsman of the Year.
He has the accolade of being one of the first ever Zimbabwean representatives at an Olympic event having been there at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games where Zimbabwe won their first gold medal courtesy of the women’s hockey team.
Although he did not win a medal, coming in at 38th position, was no mean achievement as the competition attracted the best pistol shooters from all over the globe.
Nhemachena says Westerhout is a perfect choice to add glamour to the awards which have also received the good news that top swimmer Kirsty Coventry will be at hand to receive her award should she win the Sportswoman of the Year contest in which she is competing with another swimmer Nicole Horn and golfer Claire Lyn Minter.
In fact, Coventry is the favourite to win the Sportsperson of the Year Award.
All in all, 14 sports awards will be presented and the SRC is understood to have set aside $30 000 for the prizes only.