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December 24, 2020
Nomvula Mbatha, 23, South Africa's number one women sabre fencer, poses for a photograph outside her...
Soweto, South Africa
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Nomvula Mbatha, 23, South Africa's number one women sabre fencer, poses for a photograph outside her home in Soweto, South Africa, March 14, 2020. When Mbatha finished top in a national women's sabre competition in 2019, she seemed set for the Olympics via the African Championships in Egypt, scheduled for April 2020. Then COVID-19 hit. All competition was suspended and a strict lockdown at the end of March seriously curbed training for the her and her team. "The pandemic has been disastrous for us," said Mbatha. "We basically didn't get to accomplish anything. This year was cancelled in our lives." Even when competition resumed, Mbatha, ranked number one with 17 gold medals, faced enormous difficulties raising funding to attend the international events that would secure her a berth at the Tokyo Olympics, postponed to 2021. A member of the Soweto Fencing Club, she is just one of the country's next generation of star athletes struggling to raise cash to compete in an economy hit by low growth and high unemployment, especially for young people. As officials look to programmes that can stimulate employment, Mbatha's focus is on the next African Championships. Once again, though, the pandemic looms. A recent spike in infections has prompted new restrictions. "What if we go back to lockdown?" she said. "I don't have a resolution for 2021 ... I don't have anything because I am scared." REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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