MULTI-TALENTED Zimbabwean paralympian, Nyasha Mharakurwa fears his wheelchair tennis career could come to a premature end as he battles to fully recover from a tennis-elbow injury he suffered over three years ago.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
A tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a condition in which the forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from repetitive overuse.
This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.
After representing Zimbabwe at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, where he lost in the second round to the eventual gold medalist Shingo Kunieda from Japan, Mharakurwa was living his dream until an elbow injury in 2013 brought his blossoming career to a grinding halt.
Since then, the now 34-year-old player, who was seven years ago ranked a career high 39th in the world, has attempted to make a comeback to the sport he loves without much success.
Opening up for the first time on his injury in an interview with Standardsport, Mharakurwa said he believes he was on course to progress to the next level of his career until the injury.
“It [the injury] was so severe to the extent that I had to stop playing altogether after the 2012 London Paralympics, just when I was getting my career to the next level,” Mharakurwa said.
“With tennis it takes a while to establish yourself; on average if you look at the guys that are doing well they have been playing for at least 10 years and for me I was like five years into the game and I was progressing.
“After the 2012 London Paralympics I was more motivated and focused. I even engaged a professional manager to try and bring that element in.
“When you have got all that and two months down the line you have to stop playing, it is a really huge setback. Psychologically it was really tough. In the first year you are very optimistic because you meet people who will tell you this thing will go in two weeks or in one month, but yours is not going and it becomes two years and you look back and ask ‘am I going to go back?’” said Mharakurwa.
Despite the injury setback, the multi-talented Mharakurwa, who was also a wheelchair racer, a wheel chair basketball player before venturing into tennis, has not been sitting idle after recently completing his studies in South Africa.
Mharakurwa, who was born with a congenital deformity, a physical abnormality that affected his legs, completed his Masters in Sports Management from the University of Johannesburg last year.
Last month he competed in a tournament for the first time in over two years at the South Africa Open, losing in the first round in the singles and reaching the quarter-finals in the doubles event.
Even though he has made some progress, the talented Paralympian has been laying low in Bulawayo, where he is hoping to establish sports programmes to help prop-up sports for people with disabilities in the city where he grew up.
“I moved back trying to think of something to do, thinking of a career change. I had given my life to playing tennis. I have had to sit down and reflect and think of a way forward and thank God I did not neglect my studies. I have something to actually lean back on.
“Recently I ran a couple of tennis events with some friends of mine to see if I can do some event, I’m trying to give back by getting a lot of people with impairments in the city to play. There are some things we have been doing with King George [King George VI School for Disabled] and full information will be out as soon as we have set it up properly. Basically that is what has been keeping me busy,” Mharakurwa said.
Mharakurwa boasts of seven singles titles in his career and was voted the Ansa Sportsman of the Year with Disabilities three times in a row in 2009 to 2011 and got the same honour in 2012.
Born in Buhera in 1983, he spent his childhood days in Muzarabani and moved to Bulawayo where he did his secondary education at King George and his A’ Level at Founders High School.