THE Namibia National Paralympic Committee (NPC) is disappointed with the paltry number of slots the country received for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Namibia will have only three athletes, and as many guides, on the track at the competition in Japan, which is four less than the country had in Rio de Janerio five years ago.
The Paralympic Games will run from from 24 August to 5 September.
Going are Rio 2016 heroes Johannes Nambala and Ananias Shikongo, who amassed a combined five medals in Brazil, with Lahja Ishitile the only female representative.
The guides are Even Tjiviju, Sam Shimanda and Sydney Kamuaruuma.
The NPC still has to ascertain swimmer Mateus Angula’s participation in the men’s S6 50 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke, and 100 m freestyle events.
In early June, NPC secretary general Michael Hamukwaya was hopeful that Namibia would get more than the five tentatively allocated spots at the time.
“In para- athletics, after four years of our qualification pathway, the country was only allocated three slots, which we have allocated to the following athletes according to their world rankings and their performance in the last four years,” Hamukwaya said in a statement.
World champion Nambala, who won two bronze medals at the Rio Games four years ago, will compete in the T13 100 m and 400 m.
Veteran sprinter Shikongo will take on the T11 100 m and 400 m, while Ishitile will compete in the T11 200 m, 400 m, and long jump.
“It’s has been a very hard and tough qualification period for the team, and the NPC is not happy with the number of slots we were allocated by the International Paralympic Committee this time around compared to the seven slots we had for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games,” said Hamukwaya.
Two more athletes may still be added to the team by the end of the qualification period on 29 July.
They are Petrus Karuli in the T37 1 500 m, and Silvia Shivolo for the F40 shot-put.
Part of the reason for the reduction in Paralympic slots is the lack of regular international competition for Namibian athletes.
Additionally, despite Namibia’s competitiveness at the preceding two Paralympic Games, the country’s profile remains understated, which limits its influence.
“This is a setback for the movement, but also not an easy task in making sure that in the four-year cycle, we have enough financial support towards more athletes being given a chance to compete among the best during the qualification period, in order to make sure Namibia gain more slots towards the Paralympic Games,” said Hamukwaya.
Discus thrower Reginald Benade blazed a trail for the country’s stars with a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games.
His achievement was emphatically followed up by Johanna Benson in London in 2012, when she bagged a historic first Olympic gold for the country, and a bronze.
Shikongo and Nambala picked up the baton and will look to add to their Rio exploits in Japan.
“It is also an eye-opener for our athletes to perform well throughout the four years for the country to gain more slots. This does not depend on an individual performance, but is a collective approach to support our athletes at the right time,” said Hamukwaya.
“The NPC would like to thank NamPower for being with our team during these hard times of qualifying, and hopes to build on this partnership while promoting paralympic sport,” he said.
“To the Namibian nation: These are your athletes who will be participating at the upcoming Paralympic Tokyo 2020 Games. Please support them. We are sure the team selected is capable of world-class performances at the games, and are definitely looking forward to winning some medals for the country.”