The meagre number of 11 athletes representing the country at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics and the sudden emergence of young sprinters Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi is again a motley reminder that Namibia can become a force at the Olympics, if the country invests more in grassroots development programmes, local sport experts have said.
Drawing steep reference from the recent three-year N$4 million sponsorship by MTC to both Masilingi and Mboma, Athletics Namibia (AN) president Erwin Naimhwaka and Namibia Paralympics Committee (NPC) secretary general Michael Hamukwaya agreed that the country is in dire need of more such gestures across all sport codes.
With each sprinter allotted N$2 million from the sponsorship to help assist with preparations for various local and international events among others, both Naimhwaka and Hamukwaya are of the opinion that the country can only increase her presence at Olympic Games and produce more young athletes in the mould of Mboma and Masilingi, if development efforts are redoubled across the board and become a shared responsibility.
“Investing in sports is one of the best decisions any country can take, especially at grassroots level where most of our young athletes are.
“Sports development isn’t only about pumping money into athletes or institutions, but it’s also about pumping money into the right places and at the right time of the development chain.
“Once that process is well taken care of, it then means Namibia will be able to produce more elite athletes for almost all the editions of the Olympic Games and not just that – athletes of the right age and calibre,” said Naimhwaka in conversation with New Era Sport yesterday.
He added that facilities are also another priority and more needs to be done in that space, as a lack of training venues creates a huge disconnection in the development chain of the athletes.
Sharing Naimhwaka’s sentiments, veteran para-coach Hamukwaya added that Namibia’s ambitions of replicating the success stories of the early 90s at the Olympics will remain a pipedream if no sufficient funding is prioritised at grassroots level.
Hamukwaya explained that talent alone is not enough to carry an athlete to the desired heights in all forms of sport, but with adequate investment and well-tailored development programmes in place, only then can an athlete excel at global level.
“It is important that we continue to preach that more funds should be pumped into the development of sport, because this is the only way we will be guaranteed as a nation that whatever project one starts, it will eventually succeed because investment will be there.
Athletes need nutrients, proper training gear, top equipment and access to world-class facilities among many other things, and if whoever is being groomed has access to that, they are guaranteed good results will yield.
I believe by investing in grassroots development we are surely guaranteed of winning at all levels of competition,” he added.