By Gavin Wren
A relative newcomer to mountain biking, Zimbabwe qualified for this year's Olympic Games on its first attempt. Last year, the African nation sent a nine-member team to its first-ever UCI mountain bike event - the African Continental Championships which also served as one of this year's Olympic qualifiers.
The squad fared well at the championship event and picked up two medals (one gold and one bronze), but it was in the elite men's cross country in which they caused the biggest stir. Antipass Kwari finished in eighth and in doing so, helped Zimbabwe become the third-ranked African country ahead of Team Rwanda, which is managed and funded by ex-Tour De France racer Jacques Boyer and industry notable Tom Ritchey.
Thanks in part to Kwari's ride, Zimbabwe's mountain bikers secured a place at the start line in Beijing. For the first time ever, mountain biking representatives from three African countries will be at the Olympics, with others from the nations of South Africa and Namibia.