Namibia: Paralympians Demand Equal Recognition

10 September 2021

DESPITE dining with president Hage Geingob following their brave performance at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, Paralympians are still not impressed with the treatment they receive from the government in comparison to their able-bodied compatriots.

The president on Wednesday hosted a dinner to honour the Paralympians after their return from Tokyo, Japan, with two medals.

Veteran Paralympian Ananias Shikongo on Wednesday presented his silver medal from the Tokyo Games in the men's T11 400 m to Geingob.

Shikongo was accompanied by his teammates, including Johannes Nambala who scooped a bronze medal in the men's T113 400 m at the same competition.

After a joyous reception at State House on Wednesday, Letu Hamhola, who coaches the national Paralympic team expressed his disappointment at the manner in which they have been treated by the government.

He said he wants the government to put measures in place to ensure that all athletes representing the country at international events are treated the same.

This should start with the way athletes are dressed, Hamhola said.

"I hope that next time, the Paralympic and the Olympic teams have one unifying picture so that we don't see one team dressed in this, and the other wearing that so that we can identify as one nation," he said.

Hamhola said the ministry of sport and youth must start negotiations on how to empower the national Paralympic team so that Namibia can send more participants to future Olympic games.

He also wants the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service to establish a "high-performance centre", which will enable athletes to prepare for international events at home, as opposed to travelling to training grounds in other countries and in a way "making other countries richer".

He also hinted at the fact that his team of coaches had been working with Paralympians for years without receiving decent salaries.

"Ananias keeps asking me, 'coach, when do you get money?' For me, it is when you do something for your country with pride that counts ... we have seen what the brave warriors did in their events. We have now seen what sports can do to unite the nation," he said.

Members of the Paralympic team were also issued diplomatic passports as a reward for their performance in Tokyo.

Geingob, on his part, thanked the Paralympians for their brilliant performance at the Tokyo Games.

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