WINDHOEK – The Namibia National Olympic Committee (NNOC) learnt some hard lessons before, during and after the recent Olympics.
Speaking to the media on Thursday for the first time since Namibia’s disastrous Olympic Games performance, Jesse Schickerling, Team Namibia chef de mission, said these lessons will help prepare the NNOC for future Olympics.
The Olympic Games took place from 5 to 21 August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. None of the 10 Namibian athletes returned with medals.
Schickerling revealed that two days after arriving in Rio, the team management was confronted with an appeal lodged by sprinter Tjipekapora Herunga with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), challenging her exclusion from the team.
“We lost time defending ourselves, instead of focusing on technical meetings and organising training for our athletes,” he said. CAS eventually dismissed the appeal.
“The Jonas Junius Jonas case also took a huge chunk of time on our schedule, as we had to make sure that we secure his release as early as possible,” he added. The boxer was arraigned on charges of sexual assault.
Schickerling explained that at least four appeals in four days were presented to Brazilian law authorities in a bid to secure the release of the boxer. He is still in Brazil awaiting his next court appearance.
On this, NNOC president Abner Xoagub said the organisation would in future take legal insurance for athletes in case of legal issues. In terms of preparations, Schickerling noted that Namibian athletes were not well prepared because of the lack of funds.
“It takes eight years to prepare an athlete who could win a medal at the Olympics, with total funding of between US$1 million and US$1.5 million a year. The NNOC only gave N$100 000 per athlete,” he added.
He further noted that in 2013 the local Olympics committee asked federations to identify and provide full details of athletes who can possibly qualify and challenge for medals at Rio 2016.
“The first athletes were only identified mid-2015, which was way too late to help them prepare fully for the games,” Schickerling lamented.
He said Namibian athletes also did not take part in enough qualifying events, especially in track and field, meaning they limit their chances of qualifying early, or qualifying at all.
In spite of these challenges, the NNOC said it is satisfied with the performance of Namibian athletes at Rio 2016, but promised to improve on a number of issues with the help of federations and other sports stakeholders.