30 Mar 2017 14:50pm
By Hesron Kapanga
PORT ELIZABETH, 30 MAR (NAMPA) Namibian athletes and their management arrived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Wednesday for the 2017 Nedbank South African Sport Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) national championships.
The championships start Friday and end next Tuesday.
The event will see Namibian, South African and Zimbabwean athletes with disabilities compete in the first national championships to be held in South Africa since the September 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games in Brazil.
Six Namibians will compete in track events and three in boccia, a precision ball sport contested by athletes with severe physical disabilities.
Eino Mushila, Moses Tobias, Eliakim Ameinge, Abraham Hafenanye, Johanna Benson and Lahja Ishitile will compete in the track events with guides Sydeny Kamuaruuma and Mahmad Bock.
Lihanda van der Smit, Andreas Shoombe and Salome April are competing in boccia.
Namibian athletes will use this event as a qualifier for the 2017 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships to be held in London in June and the IPC Athletics Junior World Championships that will be held in Switzerland in August this year.
Speaking to Nampa after the teams arrival on Wednesday, Team Manager Niklaus Nghumono said their aim at the competition is to qualify more athletes for the world championships and the junior world championships.
Only Ishitile, Benson, Johannes Nambala and Ananias Shikongo have qualified for the IPC Athletics World Championships after reaching the finals of their events at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Nghumono added that the Namibian Paralympic Committee is working on a four-year plan to develop young athletes for major competitions, and competing at this event will give them the opportunity to be exposed to major competitions.
He said they brought a small team to Port Elizabeth because they want to achieve their goal of paying more attention to athletes who are committed and who can represent Namibia well.
The team will grow in the future but only with athletes that have realised the importance of sport and what it can do to change their lives positively, he said.
Team Namibian won 49 medals at the South African Disability Sport Championships in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 2016. These are 27 gold medals, 15 silver and seven bronze.