HARARE – Margret Bangajena has one more item left to tick off on her bucket list before she can say her career is fulfilled.
The 36-year-old, who picked up her sixth Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability Award this month, has enjoyed a glittering career.
She underlined her growing status with an unforgettable 2016 season which saw her win gold in the 42km Outeniqua Wheel Chair Challenge in South Africa.
She went on to participate in the first World Rowing Cup of 2016 in Italy before competing in the third World Rowing Cup in Poland.
The annual series of three international regattas was followed by participation at the 2016 Summer Paralympics with the crew becoming the first rowing team to represent Zimbabwe at a Paralympic Games.
Although the Trish Davis-coached crew entered the Paralympics mixed coxed-four finishing last in their event, the side captivated the press due to the unlikely story of the crew’s formation and the hardships they faced on reaching the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It was quite a good year but now I am focusing on the 2020 Paralympics to qualify in wheelchair racing,” she said.
Bangajena lost her left leg to cancer at the age of 15, confining her to a wheelchair.
But unbeknown to her, that early life tragedy would set the tone for an athletics career.
“I thank God for all that I have managed to achieve in my career so far. Before I lost my leg to cancer, I was never an athlete but I am proud of what I am today,” she says.
Bangajena’s versatility has also seen her earning call ups into the Zimbabwe women wheelchair basketball team.
Her bountiful trophy cabinet includes winning a number of local wheelchair races including the Binga Half Marathon, Kuwadzana 10km and the Europecar 21km races.
She is a previous winner of the Sunshine City Half Marathon, Soweto 10km, Tanganda Half Marathon, PPC Matopos 21km gold medal and Danhiko Annual Paralympic Games Wheelchair basketball.
Currently, Bangajena juggles between her demanding sports career and her full-time job as a seed analyst assistant at the ministry of Agriculture.
Like most sporting disciplines in Zimbabwe, wheelchair racing is reeling under the financial challenges facing the country.
“It hasn’t been a smooth road, sometimes I have had to dig deeper into my pockets as I don’t have a sponsor,” she says.
“I could do better if I had a better wheelchair. At the moment I use spokes wheels; carbon wheels are lighter and faster.”
And on whether she will slow down on her sporting career?
“As long as my body can carry me, I’m not going to stop anytime soon.”