CORRECTION: Financial constraints hamper gymnasts' Olympic quali

18 Feb 2016 07:40am

By Hesron Kapanga
WINDHOEK, 17 FEB (NAMPA) – “How do we expect athletes to qualify for Olympic Games when we always don’t have money to prepare these athletes for major tournaments,” the president of the Namibia Gymnastics Federation (NGF) asked.
“It is really difficult to compete at international events when athletes are not trained properly,” said Valereis Geldenhuys-Venter in an interview with Nampa on Wednesday.
No Namibian gymnast has qualified for the 2016 Rio Games, because they could not make it through the 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers.
She indicated that in order to qualify for the Olympics, a gymnast needs to practice on a daily basis and has to have a team of experts like doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians and biokineticists who will monitor the way the athlete is training and how the body is responding to the training.
“But we do not have all that in place because there is never money whenever sport codes ask the Sport Commission or the government for money.”
Geldenhuys-Venter noted that gymnastic clubs in the country spend between N.dollars 9 000 to N.dollars 16 000 on rental fees per month, which is money that could be used to train athletes.
“We should stop talking about being a competitive nation at international competitions until the government builds a school that will be used by these young athletes to train in the morning like from 06h00 to 08h00 and then go to classes from there.
“We are currently far from doing that and the funds given to our federations are too little to make a difference in athletes’ lives. For the last five years, gymnastics in Namibia only received a total of N.dollars 30 000 from the commission. Now, how can one use such little funds to prepare athletes?”
The gymnastics president added that talented athletes do not always make it in the sport because they lack the financial assistance and at the end of the day, “it is the nation that ends up suffering”.
“Our sports ministry can spend money to pay for other countries to participate at events we are hosting, but they fail to even pay for athletes to prepare for events when they are taking place outside the country.
“Most of the athletes whose parents cannot afford to pay for their children to participate at events outside the country, end up staying at home and in most cases these are the athletes who are very talented and can win silverware for the country.”
Geldenhuys-Venter thus called on the Sports Commission and the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service to focus most of their attention at school level physical education activities, because most learners lack physical fitness during the early years of education and it becomes a problem when they join their respective sport codes during middle and secondary school, especially gymnastics.
She noted the only wild card left for Africa to earn silverware at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games will be competed for by the top gymnastic nations like Algeria, South Africa and Egypt but definitely not Namibia.