NSC weighs rewards for Paralympic guides
Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) Acting Chief Administrator, Walter Haseb, has confirmed that the guides who steered Namibia’s Rio Paralympics medallists to glory will also be rewarded together with the athletes.
Haseb, however, said no decision has been made as yet on whether the guides will receive the same windfall as the winning athletes.
This is after government announced last week that the Paralympic medallists will be rewarded in the same way as 2012 London Paralympics gold and silver medallist Johanna Benson.
Benson received a house worth N$1,5 million in Walvis Bay, a total of N$170,000 in grants and a diplomatic passport through the Office of the President.
Most likely to be rewarded this time around are gold, silver and bronze medallist Ananias Shikongo and sprinter Johannes Nambala, who won two silver medals at the Rio Games.
Shikongo was assisted by guide Even Tjiviju in two races and by Sam Shimanda in one race.
“As we all can remember, Benson was not having a guide, and therefore there is a change in the situation this time around,” Haseb said.
“The guides will be rewarded this time around, but the decision on whether it will be equal rewards has not been made yet.
“We know that the Head of State is not in the country, and that is why we will not be able to have a final decision until he comes back.
“What I can hint at the moment is that the rewards of the guides might not be the same as the two athletes who they guided to the medals,” Haseb added.
The two guides have been part of the Paralympics team for more than three years, guiding visually impaired athletes to African and global glory.
The visually impaired athletes have grown close to the sight guides, who act as their eyes on the track.
“We have to acknowledge that these visually impaired athletes would have not done what they did without the guides.
“They are very important to Namibian sport and that is why it is highly unlikely that we will leave them unappreciated,” Haseb said.
The Namibian Rio Paralympics team included nine athletes, four guides and seven officials. The team’s Chef de Mission was Nicklaus Nghumoono.
In 1992, Namibia only had two representatives at the Paralympic Games, and failed to win a medal. Namibia was absent from the 1996 and 2000 games, because back then, the country did not take Paralympic sport seriously.
Reginald Benade was the only Namibian representative at the 2004 Paralympic Games, in the discus throwing competition, while in 2008 Namibia won its first Paralympic medal (a bronze) in Beijing.
The country won gold and silver medals in 2012, when Benson took the London Paralympics by storm.
Rio was another successful campaign, with a total five medals, which saw the country ranked eighth in Africa and 53rd globally on the medals table.