By John Tuerijama
JAMAICA-based athletics coach, Letu Hamhola has called on authorities to immediately and seriously give attention to the state of athletics in Namibia.
Hamhola made the remarks after the Namibian team failed to win a single medal at the just ended African Athletics Championships in Durban, South Africa.
Of the 22 countries listed in terms of performance, Namibia featured nowhere on the medals table. South Africa clinched top place with eight gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals followed by Kenya who garnered four gold, five silver and seven bronze medals.
In third place was Nigeria who collected three gold, one silver and two bronze medals while Ivory Coast managed fourth place with three gold, one silver and two bronze medals to their credit.
The continental athletics championships served as the final opportunity for Namibian track and field athletes to qualify for the Summer Olympics which take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.
In an exclusive interview on his views regarding Namibia’s performance at the championships, Hamhola, said: “We have to immediately start giving attention to the state of athletics in Namibia because everyone is asking questions about Rio but there are many steps before reaching the top of the mountain.”
He said the standard of athletics and the number of competitions from school to senior level leaves a lot to be desired. Namibia hardly has athletes excelling and qualifying for World Junior events so the signs are already clear what the state will be at the senior level.
“Sadly it’s not because we don’t have the talent. We have a lot of raw talent but it’s the structures to produce the athletes that are a problem, and therefore it goes to waste,” he emphasised.
“The African Athletics championship was a very important competition as it was close to home and Athletics Namibia could enter a bigger team to expose our younger athletes to high level competition and to provide the more elite athletes with the last opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games before the 11 July deadline,” he said.
“I believe (Tjipekapora) Herunga, an Olympic semi-finalist, could have been in Durban had she received her preparation grant from the Namibia National Olympic Committee but instead we are working hard to prove that she didn’t qualify for Rio,” he said.
Added Hamhola: “How can one explain that your top track athlete didn’t make it to the competition because of finances? Her presence could have prevented the country from ending with zero medals and Namibia might have improved on the three medals of last year, not that its easy but we will now never know.”
“I am deeply hurt and mad that the (Jamaica-based) athletes did not go to Durban and we failed to prepare those that went. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to the country as stakeholders, otherwise come 2020 we will still be at zero medals and no money,” he lamented.
World athletics has literally come to a standstill until 11 July as all countries and continents are focusing on either Olympic trials or Continental Championships and there won’t thus be any other chance for Namibian athletes to qualify for the Olympics.
“It will be easy to sit on the sidelines and criticise the athletes that went to the CAA Championships but the issues are much deeper than that. It is a collective responsibility of all involved to make sure that the next time we compete at such a championship the athletes are better prepared,” cautioned Hamhola.
He said the fact that none of the Namibian athletes based in Jamaica made it to the championship is criminal and it is hard to explain how the athletes feel because all the hard work, sacrifices and preparation made has been for nothing.
Hamhola said the African championships have been a target to reach the entry standards, as some athletes are good enough to compete on the continent and some for Rio. He added that last year, during the All Africa games in Congo Brazzaville, the athletes showed they can rise to the occasion.
“Therefore, despite that fact that we want to criticise the (Vision 2016) programme we have seen what it has achieved. We saw Namibia doing well at the IAAF World Relay Championships in the Bahamas, World Indoor Championships in Portland and Penn Relays in the USA competing against USA and Jamaica who are the best in the world and those are important strides we made,” he said.
Hamhola said the Kingston-based athletes have set 11 national records but he, however, warned that athletes also need to realise that they need to work harder until Namibia is a regular feature on the IAAF Diamond League circuit and winning as was the case during the Frank Fredericks and Agnes Samaria era.
With age on their side (most are between 20 and 21 years old), Hamhola said Namibia’s athletics future looks bright but that the necessary attention and resources should be committed to ensure international success.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015