Olympic dynamite ready to explode
It is a bitterly cold Tuesday morning.
The clock has not yet struck 7 but Magdeline Moyengwa is already hard at work in the gym.
Wet with sweat and groaning with effort as she lifts weights, the 20-year-old is putting the final touches on her preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
It is this relentless dedication that has made her a champion.
The history-making Shashe sensation is the first local weightlifter to ever qualify for the Games.
Born to Bazezuru parents, Moyengwa only took up the sport in Form One.
Her rise has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Aged 18, in 2019 she becomes the youngest athlete to compete at the IWF World Championships – a record she would have broken a year earlier had she not been sitting her Form Five leavers exams!
Set to compete in the U59kg category, Moyengwa goes into next month’s Olympics confident she can medal – and as The Voice’s PORTIA MLILO discovers in this interview when she puts her mind to something, the trailblazer normally achieves it!
Massive congratulations on qualifying for the Olympics, the first-ever local weightlifter to achieve such a feat! How does it feel?
I’m humbled and happy! Since I joined weightlifting, I never thought I would reach this far.
This is a great achievement.
No arguments there! So exactly how did you get involved in such a male-dominated sport?
My passion for weightlifting started at an early age in Mogoditshane where I used to lift weights with boys in the neighborhood.
I was later spotted and recruited by my Physical Education teacher, Maipelo Shubo to join the sport.
After training for two years without any competitions, my breakthrough came in 2017 when I represented the country in the Youth and Junior Africa Championships in Uganda and won Silver and Bronze medals.
Women are equally capable and weightlifting is not just a sport for men!
How did your parents react when you started lifting?
When I started, they were against it; only my mother was supportive.
They believed it was a male sport.
I’m Zezuru and our culture is very strict.
My late father became more supportive after my first international competition.
I got depressed when my father died last year and nearly quit.
Thanks to BNOC for providing support and counselling.
And what about the Mazezuru community in general?
They reacted negatively because we are not allowed to engage in sports.
I just pray that my achievement can change their mindset.
I think for a boy child it’s a bit better because we have some Bazezuru who are playing football and their parents allow them.
We are very talented!
I must add, though, that most of my age-mates are very supportive and encourage me to work harder.
Aside from your incredible success, what do you enjoy most about the sport?
It is challenging.
It’s not about being bulky.
It helps to build confidence, gives me better sleep, and maintains my weight loss.
However, what I enjoy most is being a sports ambassador for my nation, it gives me pride and joy.
I do it for the love of my country.
In a career filled with highs, what low points have you experienced?
When I qualified for the World Championships but couldn’t go because I had to write my BGCSE final examinations.
It was a painful moment but it was beyond my control and I just told myself there will be another chance.
I qualified again in 2019 when they were held in Thailand.
And what challenges have you faced?
I was schooling far from the gym.
I used to train two days a week – on the weekends only – and it affected my preparations for competitions.
I got engaged during the Olympic qualifiers preparations.
Yoh! My mother also wanted me to quit and focus on my marriage and raising a family.
I was under a lot of pressure but it did not shift my focus.
Fortunately for me, I have a very supportive fiancé, though he sometimes felt my mother was right (laughing)!
The other thing is backache caused by the weights that I lift.
What type of diet do you follow to maintain your weight?
Weightlifting burn fats so I do not struggle to maintain my weight.
I have to remain at 59kg, which is my current and qualifying weight; if I gain a gram more I will be disqualified!
It is important to eat the right meals and it becomes my lifestyle.
I eat meat, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
I avoid eating food with added sugar and anything deep-fried.
Alcohol is also not allowed for a weightlifter.
Most young people are extremely active on social media yet you do not even have a Facebook account – why’s that?
I’m focused and I do not want any distraction.
I enjoy reading books and newspapers and that is how I kill my time after training.
The countdown to Tokyo is well and truly on. How are your preparations going and what do you hope to achieve when you get to Japan?
The preparations are going smoothly.
I’m on camp and train twice a day.
My coach, Alex Rankgwe, has a training programme that I follow in the morning when I train on my own.
He joins me in the afternoon sessions.
My target is a podium finish.
I believe I have prepared well enough to achieve that.
As a weightlifter, what does your training schedule involve?
Skills, safety, knowledge, and fitness that relate to specific, useful competencies.
Take us through a typical day in your life?
Weightlifting is my career.
I don’t work and I don’t go to school.
First thing when I wake up, I pray.
Then I take a bath, eat breakfast and I go to the gym.
If I am not in camp, I go to church after training then return home.
What are your long-term goals in the sport?
I want to qualify for the next Olympics, which will be held in Paris in 2024.
I also want to win the World Championships.
I want to see more girls joining weightlifting and doing well in international competitions.
Away from weightlifting, who is Magdeline?
I am the second born of 10 and the daughter of Elina and Abuderi.
I am a God-fearing young woman.
I like watching cartoons.
Who is your inspiration?
My parents – have supported me through this success and I dedicate my qualification to them.
It was not easy because of the pressure they got from the community but they respected my choice.
I wish my Dad was still alive to witness my achievement.
In weightlifting, I am inspired by Chen Yanqing, the best weightlifter in the world from China competing in the 58kg category.
She was the first woman to defend her Olympic title  and made me believe that I can go far with my sports career.
Finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
I will be in the camp and training.