The achievements of our star athletes at the recent Tokyo Olympics have made us all feel special in one way or the other. Where were you when our girls walked out onto the track in Tokyo for the 200 metres final? Glued to your radio, laptop, TV or smart device to catch a glimpse of history about to be made by our Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi. And boy, we were not disappointed.
Mboma won us a silver medal and together they earned us two personal best times in the process. They carried the hope of a nation and rewarded us 100-fold with their achievements. The true epitome of the Olympic dream, just as Johanna Benson (Paralympics) and Frank Fredericks had done before them.
The Olympics are about competing, getting the best out of yourself and rising to the occasion. Surrounded by athletes and sportspeople dedicated to their specific discipline and with a battery of coaches, dieticians and other support staff, the sky is the limit for the best athletes.
However, Namibia’s achievements should be seen as even more impressive as the levels of funding are nowhere near what other countries spend on sports development. There are no full-time athletics scholarships or major shoe endorsements to take away money stress.
Not long ago a N$10 000 sponsorship for two of the fastest junior athletes in the world was major front page news. This is where we need to rethink our attitude. The Olympic movement is about sports and taking part, and Namibia has shown its mettle in the Olympic Games as well as the Paralympics.
Another part of the Olympic movement is the Special Olympics – one that is usually not thought about, sadly. The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and activities to five million participants.
Together with its unified sports partners, it spans 172 countries, including Namibia. Sport truly is a great unifier and the athletes who partake in the Special Olympics achieve greatness through their dedication, determination and unstoppable attitude.
There seems to be a pecking order for funding, with funding going to the Olympic Team, and some being given to the Paralympic Team for athletes and training facilities. However, the Special Olympics, whose athletes truly go above and beyond, are left fending for resource scraps, if any funding at all for that matter.
Their training facilities in Windhoek clearly reflect this lack of funding. Making the Olympic dream become a reality for these athletes with intellectual disabilities is perhaps a greater joy to see than anything else in life.
The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture together with the Ministry of Sports, Youth and National Service are working together with GIZ to promote physical education and sports through their Integrated Physical Education and School Sports (IPESS) project.
This project has been created because if children participate in sports or activities, it will help guide and nurture them. It is the only way to create champions for our nation, not just sporting champions, but children who understand the need for teamwork.
Getting them to participate in activities and keeping them away from bad influences by giving them the chance to engage in sports and play.
We will continue to focus and cheer on Mboma and Masilingi, but all the other excellent athletes excelling at the international level deserve our (financial) support as well.