After deluge Moz wants success

2000-09-15 11:13

Sydney - Just a few months ago water was the stuff of nightmares for Mozambican swimmer Tanya Anacleto as her parents battled floods in the city of Maputo.

But as she prepares to leap into the pool in Sydney with the world's best, water has again become a symbol of hope for Anacleto.

Like Ilidiu Matuse and middle-distance runners Jorge Duvana and Tina Paulina, Anacleto is now savouring every moment of an Olympic dream.

For them the fact they have survived the floods that killed more than 700, displaced 500 000, and caused more than a billion dollars in damage to make it to Sydney is a victory in itself.

"My brothers and sisters still haven't been able to go back to our destroyed family home," Duvana told AFP.

The 18-year-old's hometown Xai-Xai - in the country's south - was swallowed by the Limpopo River during the floods this February and March.

So while he prepares to take to the track at Stadium Australia they wait to go home and rebuild in the refugee camps now home to thousands of Mozambicans.

In an ironic twist, it was too much water that hindered Anacleto's preparations for Sydney.

Based in Maputo, Anacleto wasn't able to travel to the country's only 50-metre pool in the town of Beira because of the floods. All the roads to Beira, almost 1 000 kilometres from Maputo were cut by the floods.

Even without floods to contend with. "The infrastructure in Mozambique doesn't offer good training conditions," Anacleto said.

That, both Anacleto and Matuse say, was always going to keep them from their best performances in Sydney and competing for a medal.

Anacleto's best time in the 50m freestyle is four seconds outside the Olympic record, for example.

At 24, Anacleto fears her chances for glory may have come and gone.

But other Mozambican hopefuls still see a chance at simple victories like a chance to train overseas or win a modest stipend from a sponsor.

In Atlanta, runner Maria Lourdes Mutola won the country's first Olympic medal, a bronze in the women's 800 metres.

But she is now based in the US state of Oregon and in Sydney is not the force she was four years ago. - Sapa-AFP