WINDHOEK - Namibia Paralympic Committee (NPC) secretary general Michael Hamukwaya has urged parents to expose children with disabilities to sports, as they could be future stars.
Becoming an elite athlete - like Johannes Nambala, Johanna Benson or Ananias Shikongo - means they will be able to earn an income to fend for themselves and their families, he said.
Additionally, replenishing the national teams is paramount on the NPC's to-do list, with the stellar Shikongo and Benson in particular showing signs of waning as evidenced by their underwhelming showing at the just-ended 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
"When the current pool of athletes grows and matures and senior athletes' careers come to an end, we should by then have groomed young ones to take over," Hamukwaya told Nampa in an interview.
"I, therefore, urge parents to contact the NPC, or to register their children with athletics clubs in their regions so that when we host our championships, these athletes can also participate and be identified," he appealed.
The earlier these athletes are identified, the better it would be for their development, the official said, adding that competition at IPC events is becoming tougher, making it pertinent for the federation to identify and expose upcoming athletes to the international arena.
Hamukwaya expressed relative satisfaction with some of the 13 athletes and three guides who represented the country in Dubai. The championships posed questions that need answers ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, he added.
"At the moment, I am a bit disappointed with some of the performances from our experienced athletes who did not step up to the plate at these championships. We know the competition is very tough, but those who have been in the game for long are supposed to know what their competitors will bring to the table," said Hamukwaya.
Along with Nambala, who got Namibia's only two medals, the younger members of the team gave commendable performances.
"Paralympic sports is growing, and in every major competition, there are a number of new faces that come on the scene. But seeing our young athletes debuting at this competition running personal best times shows that come Tokyo 2020, the competition will be tough, and these athletes will need to be extra prepared so that they continue improving on their times," Hamukwaya said.
The seasoned coach said Nambala's performance at the championship was a beacon of hope for para-sports in the country. He won gold in the men's T13 400m and bronze in the 100m.
"Nambala's commitment and hard work paid off at these championships. I hope he will continue training hard, and improve on the small mistakes he noticed while there. All we know, his competitors are going back to their countries and going straight into training camps in preparation for Tokyo. But as for us, we still don't have the funds to keep this team in camp."
Overall, Namibia finished 38th on the medal standings alongside the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Ireland and Serbia, who also just won two medals.
Top of the standings was China with 59 medals; 25 gold, 23 silver and 11 bronze, while Brazil took second position with 39 medals: 14 gold, nine silver and 16 bronze. Britain locked out the top three positions with 28 medals: 13 gold, nine silver and six bronze.
The only African country in the top 10 was Tunisia, who came eighth with 13 medals: seven gold, three silver and three bronze, while South Africa was the best-performing team from southern Africa in 21st position with 11 medals: two gold, three silver and six bronze. - Nampa