On 28 JUNE 1969, Artwell Mandaza, a powerful-striding sprinter from Mangula Mine, became the fastest man in Rhodesian athletics history. It was at the Salisbury Police cinder-track that he exploded from his blocks in the 100 metres, to race to a shock victory over Springbok Sakkie van Zyl and clock 10,3 sec. to eclipse Johan du Preez's six-year-old Rhodesian record of 10,5 sec.
Less than an hour later the lean, well-muscled Mandaza — the man they nicknamed the 'Mangula Meteor' — again thrilled a 1 500 crowd by snatching another national record from Du Preez. This was the gruelling 400 metres in which Mandaza overcame the handicap of drawing the outside lane. After a rocketing start, he paced himself evenly and burst into a powerful sprint from the 200 metres mark to record 47,0 sec. and beat Du Preez's all-comers record of 47,5 sec. In that pulsating race, Mandaza held off Springboks Freddie Poggenpoel (47,5) and Dicky Broberg (47,8).
A report in the Rhodesia Herald said: "It was the flashing Mandaza who stole the show. He broke into a huge grin as he hit the tape in the 100 metres and congratulations were showered on him. He got one of his rare good starts and shaded Van Zyl from start to finish."
It was an astonishing performance from Mandaza, who had suffered a hip injury early in the 1969 season, keeping him off the track for two months. His record runs came after only four weeks' training and underlined his immense potential.
A major factor in his record runs was a new starting style. Three weeks previously, he had been disqualified from a 100 metres race for breaking. His front block was too close to the start-line and he was toppling forward on the 'set' position. When he moved the block back he was steadier and not so cramped and certainly surprised the powerful Van Zyl, second only to Paul Nash at this time in South African athletics history.
"What a great start," said the startled 200 lb. Springbok. "Mandaza jumped into a three-yard lead from the start and I just couldn't catch him."
Mandaza's time of 10,3 sec. put him joint seventh on the all-time ranking list for the African continent. The only men to have run faster were Paul Nash (10,0 sec.), Ravelomanatsoa of Madagascar (10,1 sec.), Judge Jefferies and Sakkie van Zyl, both of South Africa, Ahey of Ghana and Seye of Senegal (all 10,2 sec.).
It put him alongside such stars as former Empire Games champion, Serephino Antao (Kenya), Mane (Senegal), Altoy (Ghana), Ejoke (Nigeria) and Kone (Ivory Coast). Three of South Africa's most famous sprinters — Gordon Day, Harold Bromberg and John Luxon — never bettered 10,4 sec.
Mandaza's time also placed him joint eleventh in the world for 1969 over 100 metres, while his 400 metres time was also remarkable as he had only taken to the event seriously that season, when he clocked 47,7 sec. in his first outing.
The record double by Mandaza topped one of the finest meetings ever staged in Rhodesia. Eight national all-comers marks and five national domestic records toppled; while Broberg won the 800 metres un-extended, just 0,6 sec. outside Terry Sullivan's long-standing all-comers mark.
There was to be more glory for Mandaza before the end of the year. On 20 December 1969, again at the Salisbury Police track, he competed for a Mashonaland invitation team against Stellenbosch University, and cracked on the pace to win the 100 metres in a startling 10 seconds dead — just 0,1 sec. outside the world record held by American Jim Hines. But Mandaza's run was officially classified as 'wind assisted' and therefore not recognised as a record.
The year 1970, however, was the most momentous for the well-liked Mandaza, a real gentleman of the track. It was in May that year that he astonished everyone with a world record-equalling 9,9 sec. 100 metres in a semifinal at the South African Bantu championships at Welkom. The record was disallowed because of a following wind of 4,27 metres per second (2 m is the maximum allowed), but after clocking 10,3 sec in an earlier heat he won the final in a legal 10,2 sec. — the fastest time ever by a Rhodesian.
Although not recognised, Mandaza's 9,9 sec. did make him the fastest man in the world that year, along with Cuban Pablo Montes. The Rhodesian's legal best of 10,2 sec. put him in joint eleventh in the world for 1970.
Mandaza will also long remember the 1970 Chamber of Mines champion- ships at Gath's Mine, Mashaba. He competed in six events and won them all, breaking four records. The crowd gave him the time-honoured Matabele salute of "Mandaza bayete . . . see our hands are raised," which the athlete says was the greatest honour ever bestowed on him.
For his dazzling efforts, Mandaza was chosen as the nation's Sportsman of the Year for 1970. It was on 9 October at the annual Sportswriters' Association banquet in the Old Meikles dining-room, that guest of honour, Mr. Owen Williams, presented Mandaza with the John Hopley Memorial Trophy to make him the first African to be honoured as the country's supreme sportsman.
Mandaza, the first black African to gain a place among the five finalists, beamed with delight as he said simply to the 230 specially invited guests: "I hope you will be happy with me tonight"
He was an instant hero at Mangula Mine, 120 miles from Salisbury. He and his coach, Ken Walker, travelled home by car after the event, arriving at 1.00 a.m. Several well-wishers had stayed up all night to greet him and the next day he was so besieged that he could not even get to his cashier's job at the mine. Instead of sore feet he had sore wrists from shaking hands while singing, clapping women and cheering youngsters followed him round all day to pay homage.
Not only had he gained world recognition with his wind-assisted 9,9 sec. sprint but Mandaza was undisputed athlete of the year for 1970. setting new national best times for the 100 metres (10,2 sec.) and the 400 metres (46,8 sec.) and equalling the 200 metres mark (20,9 sec.).
Born at Mazoe on 4 January 1946, Mandaza did not take to serious athletics until the age of twenty when Dave Klinker was his first coach at Mangula. In his first year he won the Rhodesian 100 yards title in the slow time of 10,3 sec. (equivalent of 11,2 sec. for 100 metres), though his real talent began to emerge during the following year when he kept the 100 yards title (10,0 sec.) and recorded the second fastest time ever in the country for 400 metres hurdles, his time of 55,3 sec. being second only to Gerald Brown's 54,3 sec. of 1952. Mandaza also won the 100 yards (9,8 sec.) and the 220 yards hurdles (24,2 sec.) at the South African Bantu championships.
In 1971, Mandaza travelled to West Germany for six weeks for a special coaching course and in 1972 he was the only Rhodesian athlete to reach the Olympic qualifying mark for the Munich Games of 10,2 sec. for the 100 metres and 20,9 sec. for the 200 metres. He was naturally the top nomination for Rhodesia's track and field team for Munich and that year equalled Sakkie van Zyl's
all-comers 200 metres mark of 20,8 sec. at Mangula.
It was thought that an inflamed Achilles tendon might keep him out of the Olympic team, but the leg was forcibly immobilized in plaster for six weeks, and he took his place on the plane to Munich.
It was to prove an ill-fated trip, with political blackmail ensuring that Rhodesia was excluded from the Games on the eve of competition after a vote by the International Olympic Committee. It was heartbreak for the highly trained athletes and other sportsmen from the Rhodesian contingent who were forced to sit in the stands and watch the world's greatest sports spectacular.
Injury problems now began to beset Mandaza and in 1973 he was in plaster for eleven weeks when he tore the Achilles tendon in his left heel. It was thought that this might end his career.
However, with disciplined determination he set out on the return trail in 1974 at the age of twenty-eight. He would pound across the mine dumps and put in two sessions daily of an hour and a half. Ray Batchelor, then the Mangula coach, remarked: "For an athlete whom people were saying would never run again, his pure dedication has brought about an almost miraculous recovery."
Mandaza has continued to compete at all meetings and even in 1980 at the age of thirty-four he could be seen regularly in such events as the 200 metres, 400 metres and long jump. His times and distances may be fading now, but Artwell Mandaza remains a major force in Zimbabwean athletics as he dedicates himself to training and coaching the next crop of the country's young stars. They are the lucky ones with the world now open to them and a real incentive to reach the top. Mandaza reached remarkable heights during the years between 1970-80 when Rhodesian sportsmen were outcasts from the world, and track and field in this country plunged to an all-time low. That showed the mettle of the man. Had he been emerging today, he may have become a world beater. Who knows?
ARTWELL MANDAZA'S CAREER
100 m — 1966, 1967, 1971, 1972.
400 m — 1969.
200 m hurdles — 1966, 1967.
400 m hurdles — 1967.
100 m — 10, 3 sec. in 1969.
200 m — 20,8 sec. in 1972 (also equalled all-comers).
400 m — 46,8 sec. in 1970 (broken by Adon Treva in 1972 with 46, 2 sec.).
400 m hurdles — 52,18 sec. in 1976.
Six occasions Mandaza has been ranked among the world's top 100:
1969 — 100 m in 10,3 sec. (joint 44th).
1970 — 100 m in 10,2 sec. (joint 11th); 200 m in 20,9 sec. (joint 78th).
1971 — 100 m in 10,3 sec. (joint 49th); 200 m in 20,9 sec. (joint 78th).
1972 — 200 m in 20,8 sec. (joint 66th).
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