Ananias Shikongo or Johannes Nambala: Ananias Shikongo
Johanna Benson or Lahja Ishitile: Johanna Benson
London 2012 Paralympics or Rio 2016 Paralympics: Rio 2016 Paralympics
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce or Dina Asher-Smith: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin or Asafa Powell: Usain Bolt
Swakopmund or Walvis Bay: Swakopmund
Nike, Adidas or Puma: Puma
Date of Birth: 23/12/1977
Place of Birth: Onyango, Zambia
Marital Status: Married
Car: 2016 model Toyota Etios
Career achievements as a coach?
Winning the MTC Namibia Coach of the Year awards in 2012, 2015 and 2016, and also being instrumental in the improvement of our para-athletes over the years by helping them through my knowledge and training skills.
Most memorable competition?
It is the 2012 London Paralympics where Namibia won her first-ever gold medal – thanks to our golden girl Johanna Benson; I guided as the national team coach at the time. Also, my first appearance at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games was an eye-opener for me as a coach.
As a coach, how difficult has your journey been getting to where you are today?
It has been a long and difficult journey for me because when I started coaching Paralympic sport in Namibia, there were no coaches involved in the sport at the time – and that meant I had to upgrade myself through many training programs over the years. Being the pioneer coach in para-sport in Namibia has been very hard, as there was no support from either government or private sector at the beginning. Another obstacle as a coach has been getting the right equipment to use for our athletes with disability to enable them to partake.
Besides being coach, you are also a strong advocate for the plight of local para-athletes, why is Paralympics so close to your heart?
I have witnessed the benefits of healthy living through movements in my lifetime as an athlete and also through some of my para-athlete friends. I made it to give a chance to people with disabilities to participate in sports to increase their life span through exercising and also for them to realise their dreams. What keeps me going is the fact that government have now put policies in place to help improve the lives of people with disabilities in Namibia but implementation of many of these policies are failing. I have also realised that para-sport can be used as a catalyst and a voice to help fast track the implementation of some of these programs because once implemented, more opportunities can be created.
Are you satisfied with the level of investment being made in Paralympics, especially here at home?
Government has been the number one funder of Paralympic sport over the years, which we really appreciate but still, I personally feel no equal funding is allocated to disability sport in Namibia, especially towards our Paralympic movement, compared to able-bodied sports. We have, however, over the years started seeing some corporate companies starting to invest in para-sport, especially companies like NamPower and Coca-Cola Namibia, their support has really helped the athletes a lot. But generally speaking, we, as a country, still have a long way to go as far as investing in para-sport is concerned.
Still speaking of investment, do you think corporate Namibia has been receptive towards local para-athletes and towards the Namibia Paralympics Committee (NPC)?
I believe we have laid the foundation for NPC to create better partnership deals for the future and I believe there is room for improvement in making para-sport one of the best sport organisation to work with, especially in terms of human resource, financial resource and so forth. As the NPC brand is starting to be more and more appreciated and prominent in Namibia, I think the time is right for NPC and corporate Namibia to create smart partnerships that will result in improved infrastructure, equipment and social wellbeing for the athletes.
Also, are you satisfied with the recognition our various Paralympic heroes get from government and other relevant stakeholders? Is more being done to address the plight of local para-athletes?
I really have to say I’m happy that a reward policy was approved by Cabinet and it is there to recognise the efforts and achievements of all Namibian sportsmen and women, irrespective of physical condition [ability or disability]. I am also glad to have witnessed two of our para-athletes getting houses from government and Standard Bank; this was really a serious indication that these athletes are valued and appreciated.
From a general standpoint, are you happy with the state of Paralympics in Namibia?
I am not very happy, as we lack a lot at the moment, especially our human resource capacity – and also, our centre of operation is not ideal for the movement. To improve, we need a well capacitated headquarter and an athletes performance centre to help all other athletes across the country. Those para-athletes struggling in rural areas will benefit from a concentrated athletes centre. When these various developments take place, I will be happy.
Comparing experiences, what does Namibia need to do for local para-sport to catch up with the rest of the world? We need to get some basics right first: things such as the equal allocation of funding or at least increased funding towards disability sport. The second thing will be to create relations with the rest of the sporting sector, as that will help NPC to work hand-in-hand with the other already existing sport federations in the country to avoid duplication of programs and policies. The thing of federations working in isolation is not helping anyone at all.
At school level, do you think schools are beginning to realise the importance of integrating para-sport into their physical education programs or Namibia still has a long way to go in that space?
We are very lucky during in Namibia, as the Integrated Physical Education and School Sports Policy for 2020 will be launched very soon. This document aims to address the issue of physical education in schools, which means learners with disabilities will not be left out.
Your ambitions for 2020 and beyond?
My ambitions are for a centre of excellence to be built for NPC – hopefully in the next 10 years from now – to benefit our para-athletes from all corners through specialised training. Such a centre will also create job opportunities for our disabled athletes and ensure Namibia keeps winning more medals at major national, regional and international competitions through well-coordinated programs.