The men who made us proud in Brazil

Information regarding when and how much the winners from the just-ended Rio Paralympic Games in Brazil will get must yet be decided.

Para-athletes Ananias Shikongo and Johannes Nambala won gold and two bronze and silver medals, respectively, but details of their reward will be communicated to the public when all consultations have done, says Sports Deputy Minister Agnes Tjongarero.

Tjongarero said their pledge to the reward winning athletes before their departure will be met. The deputy minister spoke during a celebration and welcoming event for the para-athletes at United Nations Plaza in Katutura on Thursday morning.

She said performance of this nature motivation them to justify their budgetary request from the Ministry of Finance and hope that – based on the performance – when they request funding it will be considered favourably in the mid-term, because “this is a good return on investment”.

“The time has come that we must not only participate, but compete and today we have shown we can compete against the best in the world and we can win.

“Now it’s the time to prepare for Japan 2020 and it’s time to identify the new Johanna Benson, the pioneer of our Paralympic team. It’s also time to identify Johannes Nambala and the new Ananias Shikongo and prepare them well.”

From Rio to where?
Ananias said he would be resting now, as it is off-season. “I will visit my son and parents in the north, as I have not been here since January as I was focusing on Rio. After visiting them, I will come back in action next year to prepare for London,” said Shikongo, who is totally blind.

At the age of four years old Shikongo was shot in one eye with a bow and arrow and was blinded in one eye. When he reached the age of seven years, his other eye was kicked out by a donkey.
Shikongo, who last year complained to New Era about people with disabilities not being fairly considered, or given employment opportunities, said he looks forward to what the government has prepared for him: “I know this gold medal will change my life.”

He said the encouragement he got from Johanna Benson in London 2012 proved that if they train hard they can win gold, which automatically changes one’s life.

Shikongo is a resident of Goreangab, where he shares a shack with fellow para-athlete Nambala.
“Now the companies and government are starting to open their eyes that the Paralympics is just the same as the Olympics and they have to come on board to support us,” remarked the para-athlete, who also is also known as the “troublemaker on the track”.

He added that the spirit of Harambee should be included in sport and said preparing for Rio was a challenge, especially with transport for practical sessions at the stadium.

“My manager, Paul, made a connection with one lady in the Netherlands and came up with a website that really helped me a lot to get funds to buy my own food and some money for transport”.

When asked who inspires him most, Shikongo mentioned his former school principal, Abraham Nafine from Eluwa School, who encouraged them to work hard and push forward, regardless of the circumstances. “My parents also encouraged me that I have to be the breadwinner in the family,” he remarked.

When asked whether he has someone special in his life, Shikongo giggled and said: “No, I’m okay. I’m happy enough with my son. Everything is well.”

Shikongo was in the company of his guide, Even Tjiviju, who led him at the Paralympic event. Tjiviju said he was surprised and not expecting people at the airport when they arrived on Wednesday night: “I was not expecting to see people and they were very happy to see us.”

He said he was also happy they won gold and that they work very hard for it. Alexia Manombe-Ncube, the deputy minister responsible for disability affairs, said her office has noted the challenges para-athletes face, as the persistent problems have been brought to her attention.

She said at some stage the athletes indicated that they needed transport to ferry them to and from the stadium for practical sessions, which the ministry provided.

Manombe-Ncube also indicated that the para-athletes want and need full-time employment, as most of their colleagues who participate in the Olympics have jobs to rely on.

She said government understands they are not professional athletes and recognises their ability to perform professional at highest level.

“You need consistent income to feed yourself and family. Government and the private sector need to work together to ensure you are supported through your activities and not just a single group [of para-athletes] every four years.

“Your grievances have reached our ears. As you know, we’ve taken steps to ensure that this is brought to the attention of leaders in all key ministries. Our disability mainstream plan is being worked out to ensure the lives of people with disabilities are improved through accessible sport facilities.

“Government is working on a delivery plan to ensure you’re provided with adequate support to become productive citizens. Don’t get disheartened when your request takes a bit longer than expected. You need to know government decisions are not based on individuals, but are a collective responsibility.”

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