Former Zimbabwean top athlete
In four years, Atipa Mabonga has gone from a novice athlete to the top of the national rankings for under-18 girls' triple jump.
During that time she has been coached in Invercargill by Lance Smith mostly, with early advice from coach Lorne Singer. The Central Southland College student travels to Invercargill's Surrey Park for coaching on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays most weeks.
Mabonga, 15, is in the 19-member Southland team heading to the New Zealand track and field championships in Wellington next week. She is entered for the under-18 girls' triple jump and long jump.
"I've heard it's a very good experience," Mabonga said of the champs.
Triple jump is her favourite and in that event, she has gained a second (11.07 metres) at the Otago-Southland secondary schools' athletics and a win (11.04m) at the Southland secondary schools' athletics in Invercargill this month.
After the Wellington trip, Mabonga will set her sights on the Oceania Area Championships in Rarotonga on June 24-26.
Her best triple jump, of 11.63m, was made at a Dunedin competition last year, while she holds the Central Southland College record at 11.2m.
Being top ranked in the country's under-18 girls' triple jump is an achievement she will always treasure.
"When I got told, it was a big shock . . . now it's really cool," the teenager said.
Coach Smith believes Mabonga is following a similar path of former Southland triple jumper Greer Alsop, who went to Washington State University in August to take up an athletics scholarship. Another Southland athlete Charlotte Muschamp is also there.
"She [Mabonga] has the dedication and enthusiasm that Greer had," Smith said.
Twelve years ago, Mabonga and her family moved from Zimbabwe to New Zealand. Her parents, Edwin and Fungai, farmed in Taranaki before coming to Southland in 2007. The couple farmed atRiversdale before transferring their dairying operation to Otautau three years ago.
- The Southland Times