PROMISING Zimbabwe triathlete Andie Kuipers is thrilled after securing a scholarship to further her studies and continue her development at the Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, United States.
Kuipers, who left Harare at the weekend, will be pursuing an Exercise Science degree at the institution while also taking part in competitions.
“I am so excited to be embarking on such an incredible journey, this is something I have dreamed of since I started triathlon four years ago and for it to be happening now still feels so surreal,” Kuipers told the Daily News shortly before her departure.
“I am beyond grateful and so fortunate to have an opportunity like this and I am going to make the most of it in order to achieve my goal of competing at the Olympics.”
The 17-year-old represented Zimbabwe at last year’s World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland and finished in position 59 out of 70 contestants during her maiden international event.
Triathlon Zimbabwe (TZ) coach Pam Fulton said Kuipers’ departure for the US was a combination of sorrow and joy.
“Today is both a sad and exciting day for TZ, as Andie departs for America to pursue her dream. She has been planning her future for a long time very carefully,” Fulton said.
“She is meticulous about all her preparations whether it is planning for her next race or planning her future, busy researching her competition, university, future team mates, future coach, nothing gets left unturned.
“With her determination I am exceptionally excited for her and TZ to see what the future holds, possibly our next Olympian.”
TZ spokesperson Carol Pakenham concurred with Fulton that Kuipers’ departure aroused mixed emotions.
“Congratulations on your acceptance to study and pursue your triathlon dream…whilst we are really sorry to see you leave Zimbabwe, we know that this opportunity is one that cannot be missed and are confident that you will thrive and do your very best,” Pakenham said.
“It is very sad that we do not have the same facilities here at home that could offer aspiring athletes like yourself to train and race at elite level.
“We have watched you develop from a little 11-year-old participating in a fun school event to the determined and dedicated young woman that you have become today — we are very proud of everything you have achieved this far and will support you in all that you aim for in the future.
“This is definitely not goodbye — we will follow your progress and hope that you will be back home soon racing as an elite under the Zimbabwe flag. Please keep in touch with us and send us updates on your studies, training and races while you are away.”
Former TZ coach Wayne Davidson said he was confident Kuipers will do well in the US and develop into an international triathlete.
“Andie has competed in triathlon since 2015 and has represented Zimbabwe at all levels including the World Championships; maybe her finest achievement was a podium finish at the All Africa Games,” he said.
“I for one have confidence you will achieve your dream of qualifying for the Olympic Games — see you there.”