THREE Namibian Para-cyclists left for George, South Africa yesterday to compete in the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge on Saturday.
Frans 'Tupac' Paulus, who has competed there before is back and will be joined by two up-and-coming wheelchair riders, Rudly Gawaseb and Mathias Kamenje.
At a press conference in Windhoek on Monday the secretary general of the Namibia Paralympic Committee (NPC), Mike Hamukwaya said they decided to support para-cycling with the eye on developing the sport for the future.
"We decided to commit some of our funds so that our para-cyclists can compete outside our borders. Frans Paulus will compete in the 42km hand cycling race, while Rudly and Mathias with compete in the 21km wheelchair racing event," he said.
Hamukwaya thanked their main sponsor Nampower, adding that they were now working towards the next Paralympic Games in 2020.
"We are now starting a new four year cycle and I hope that we can have some wheelchair riders for the next Paralympic Games in 2020," he said.
Paulus has competed at the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge several times before, with his last appearance in 2011 being his most successful, when he came sixth in the 42km wheelchair category.
Since then, though, he has not competed, saying that injuries and a lack of motivation hampered his efforts, but now he has been encouraged by the recent support from the NPC.
"I nearly gave up, because I couldn't find funds to compete, but I am now encouraged by the support from the NPC and I hope the three of us will do well. When I was competing on my own it was not easy, but with the NPC's support I think our sport can grow, because there are a lot more talented athletes out there," he added.
For Gawaseb and Kamenje it will be a new experience and both said they were very excited about Saturday's race.
"I've only competed in wheelchair basketball in the past, so I've been waiting for this opportunity for a while and I feel very positive about this," Gawaseb said.
Kamenje said the support of the NPC would be very helpful.
"Last year I went down to compete on my own, but I didn't have anyone to assist me and in the end I didn't make the starting line-up. It was a setback, but now I feel much more confident with the NPC's support," he said.
The three para-cyclists and NPC official Damien Ndenge left for South Africa yesterday with the InterCape bus service.
Hamukwaya said it was quite a costly exercise, amounting to about N$70 000.
"It's quite a costly exercise, but by using InterCape we are also trying to cut down on costs. The para-cyclists need to be accommodated till next Monday when they return, while their bikes also need to be serviced," he said.