Athletes should use lockdown to improve – Kaxuxwena

By Michael Uugwanga

ROBERT Kaxuxwena, coach of 11 Namibian long distance runners – notably Helalia Johannes, Tomas Reinhold, Mynhardt Kauanivi, Indileni Mwashamekange, Matheus Jonas and Kornelius Nghiyeendele to mention a few – says this is the right time for his athletes to perfect themselves without pressure.

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to the postponement of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games and Paralympics Games to next year, which would have seen Johannes race against some of the top female marathoners in the world but she will have to wait for next year – and remain injury-free.

While another marathon runner, Kauanivi who was at the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil also has an opportunity to qualify once the International Olympic Committee (IOC) fix new dates for qualifiers later this year or early next year, depending on the fight against Covid-19.

In an exclusive interview with Confidente Sport, when asked how Covid-19 has affected the athletes’ training, Kaxuxwena said he sees this as an opportunity for his athletes to redouble their efforts on their own without any pressure.

“I have been and always tell my athletes to stay positive, keep their heads up and to take this time as an opportunity to improve themselves. Generally, it affects all athletes who have qualified. The postponement also gives Helalia (Johannes) more time to plan and prepare accordingly, … as well as giving her assurance that she is competing in a safe environment  and that she can fully focus on winning rather than being worried about her health,” said Kaxuxwena.

At 39, turning 40 next year August, Johannes remains one of the country’s few Olympic medal hopefuls alongside boxer Jonas Junias Jonas, following the two athletes gold medal wins at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Johannes was heading into the Olympic Games in probably the best shape of her career after winning bronze at last year’s World Athletics Championships (WAC) in Doha.“As a coach I believe that winning is not determined by age but the effort and determination athletes put in during training. She (Johannes) might get some events in spring,” Kaxuxwena said.