Thorough preps for para-athletes needed

By John Tuerijama

DESPITE a brilliant showing at the just concluded International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championship in Paris, France the local stars may miss out on a sorely needed training camp ahead of the world championship in November.

Namibia’s sterling performance in Paris saw the para-athletes bag five medals: one gold, two silver and two bronze.

Namibia Paralympic Committee (NCP)’s secretary general Michael Hamukwaya expressed immense appreciation to the athletes for their efforts, specifically commending the country’s rising sporting talents, Denzel Namene, Silvia Shivolo and Bradley Murere, for their outstanding performances.

Hamukwaya said Namibia’s performance in Paris will not go unnoticed as the country competed against 62 nations with 1,231 athletes vying for top honours.

“For Namibian para-athletes to have reached the podium, especially for the upcoming athletes, is an indication that we have immense talent and all that is needed is proper exposure so that we produce global stars, like the Johanna Benson and Ananias Shikongo,” he enthused.

Hamukwaya told Confidente Sport that a thorough training camp is needed for Namibia to yield the much needed results through the 13 para-athletes scheduled to compete at the November IPC World Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He said there are no funds currently to schedule the three-week training camp, which would preferably be held in Swakopmund, where the weather is comparable to Dubai. The secretary general pleaded with the business sector and sympathetic individuals to help finance the needed training camp.

“We are also not sitting idle, but are in negotiations with government for funding. But the economic realities on the ground look unfavourable,” Hamukwaya reckoned. “We really want to improve on the 2017 IPC world championship, at which we only managed to bring home two silver medals. The world championship in Dubai is a major event that also serves as qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games.”

He added that countries will get points on a slot basis and for Namibia to qualify for the Summer Games, athletes must be in the top four of their individual disciplines. He acknowledged that the economic situation of the para-athletes might negatively impact on their preparations, but reiterated that a proper training camp will be ideal as the athletes will be up against the best in the world.

“Unfortunately we will have to do with the 13 athletes selected, as the team’s formation started two years ago and the number cannot increase. If we ensure [we have] the training camp I am confident that our athletes will put up a brilliant display in Dubai.”

He said the NPC afforded an opportunity to the athletes to compete at the recent championships so the athletes can gain international classification, as it was their first time to participate in the competition and it allowed them to improve on the 2019 world championship qualifying standard in their respective classes, which these athletes already achieved in March at the 2019 SASAPD in South Africa.

Paralympic athlete Lahija Ishitile formed part of the team in Paris, competing in the 100m, 200m and long jump in the T11 class. Air Namibia sponsored senior athletes Ananias Shikongo (T11) and guide Sem Shimanda, Johannes Nambala (T13) and Murere (T46).

Hamukwaya said: ''We would like to thank Air Namibia for coming on board, Swakopmund Municipality, Frank Fredericks Foundation and Sports on the Move Foundation, and all the individuals that contributed to the athletes. Thank you for your generosity for making this trip a success.”