South Africa: Namibian Stars Eye Cape Town Glory

SPORT minister Agnes Tjongarero expects more success for Namibia's athletes at the South African Sport Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) National Championships in Cape Town.

The Namibian team will compete in five disciplines, namely powerlifting, athletics, goalball, cycling and swimming from Friday to Tuesday.

Namibia will have a record 38 athletes at the annual competition, an important stepping stone for those aspiring to reach the Paralympic Games in Paris next year.

"We are moving away from being participants and hopefully now are becoming contenders for podium positions," Tjongarero said during the team's send-off reception in Windhoek yesterday..

Decorated paralympians Ananias Shikongo and Johannes Nambala, along with fellow track stars Roodly Gowaseb, Lahja Ishitile and Bradley Murere, will once again lead the charge.

Namibia only competed in athletics at the 2022 SASAPD nationals but won 30 medals.

Further success was attained at the Commonwealth Games and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Grand Prix in Morocco last year.

"All this has led to the placement of many of our athletes in excellent positions on the international rankings. All track and field athletes present here today are on the list for the World Athletics Championships in July in Paris, France. At this rate, we are surely guaranteed more slots at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games," said Tjongarero.

Several of the newcomers will obtain their classification in Cape Town before making their international debuts.

Namibia will be making its goalball bow in Cape Town. Goalball is played exclusively by athletes who are blind or visually impaired. The object of the game is to throw a ball past the opponents and into their net to score points. Players stay on their hands and knees to defend their net and score against their opponents.

As well as eyeing Olympic spots, Namibia's powerlifting team will use the South African competition to prepare for the Africa Championships in June and Para Africa Games in September.

Budding swimmer Jerome Rooi will use the Cape Town event to gauge his readiness for the Africa Triathlon Championship on 25 March at Swakopmund.

"This will be a first for Namibia, and if he successfully completes the event within the parameters of the ITF and world para-triathlon, he will be crowned Namibia's first para-triathlete national champion. We wish him well," said Tjongarero.

Also looking to make their presence felt in Cape Town are the para-cyclists who "have shown their mettle by accomplishing great feats in a very short period of time".

Last year, the determined hand-cyclists took on The Namibian Paratus Cycle Classic, Outeniqua Challenge and completed arguably the world's most challenging mountain bike race in the 397km Nedbank Desert Dash.

"The whole international hand cycling fraternity said it was impossible, so much so that Greg Milano from Inclusive Cycling International specially flew in from America to witness and verify its authenticity. Our cyclists proved the world wrong and here they are," Tjongarero said proudly.

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