Athletes to benefit from COVID-19

By Michael Uugwanga

NAMIBIA National Olympic Committee (NNOC) secretary general Joan Smit believes many Namibian athletes could benefit from the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games that were slated for Japan from July 24 to August 9, before it was called off due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus globally.

The 2021 Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games have been rescheduled for 2021.

So far, Namibia has five athletes that have secured places at the Games that will only resume once the COVID-19 threat is brought under control. The five athletes are Helalia Johannes (marathon runner), Jonas Junias Jonas (boxer), Vera Adrian (cycling), Dan Craven (cycling) and Maike Diekmann (rowing).

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For the Paralympic Games, also scheduled for Japan after the Olympic Games, only sprinter Johannes Nambala managed to qualify.

The small number clearly suggests that a lot needs to be done to prepare Namibian athletes if we are to send a strong and competitive team to the Olympic Games, with female sprinter Beatrice Masilingi remaining the country’s hopeful to qualify for the Games.

Speaking to Confidente Sport, Smit said the postponement of the Games would give the NNOC enough time to plan and to help more athletes qualify.

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“To date, 57 percent of the quota places for the Games were filled with qualifications that had already taken place before the virus outbreak; 43 percent of the qualifications could not be filled because it was scheduled between February and May this year.

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“The postponement of the Games allow for those international federations to reschedule the qualifiers and give athletes a fair chance to train and to compete in the qualification events, whenever it takes place… We hope that this unprecedented situation worldwide will be over sooner [rather] than later.

“All governments across the globe have declared very strict measures in their countries to contain the spread of the virus.

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The athletes are also in need of international competitions as part of their preparation and this could only happen once the world has overcome the pandemic and is safe again.

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“The five athletes who have already qualified are so ready physically, mentally and psychologically for the Games this year. It is now for the NNOC to nurture the athletes, assist and support them to stay positive and focused. This postponement also gives the NNOC more time for planning and engaging with primary stakeholders to get the necessary funding the athletes will need,” said Smit.

In 2021, India plans to host the Commonwealth Games, which will see only two sport codes, shooting and archery, six months before the main Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. The proposal for India to host the Commonwealth Games was put forward by India, who threatened to boycott Birmingham 2022 after shooting was excluded from the Commonwealth Games.

“It is only the shooting event within the Commonwealth Games that will be hosted in India as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are not affected by the postponement of the Olympic Games,” Smit said.