Shikongo outraged over ‘unfair’ awards system

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Windhoek

All Africa Games gold medalist para-athlete Ananias Shikongo, who recently added a silver medal to his array of accolades at the Doha 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Championship, is a heartbroken man.
Shikongo is furious and feels cheated because he missed out on the prestigious Disability Sportsman of the Year Award at the recently held Namibia Sports Commission Sports (NSC) annual awards ceremony.

He referred to his remarkable tally of three gold medals at this year’s AAG, where he set a new record by becoming the first Namibian to claim three gold medals at the same event and is deeply unhappy about the judges’ decision to award long-distance runner Ruben Gowaseb, as the overall winner of the disputed accolade.

Gowaseb won gold at the Special Olympics in the United States of America (USA) in August this year. The veteran marathon runner also went on to be crowned joint Sports Achiever of the Year, which he shared with boxing world champion Paulus Ambunda.

Shikongo, the T11, 100m, 200m and 400m sprinter, was a notable absentee from the glittering awards ceremony, as he was participating at the world championships in Doha at the time.

“I was supposed to win the Disability Sportsman of the Year award, while Reuben should have won the Sport Achiever of the Year award. At the end of the day, I got nothing. I almost decided not to run in Qatar, because of the disappointment, but my coach encouraged me to continue, saying ‘Such things do happen in life’.”

Shikongo said his efforts are going unrecognised. He said it is like planting seeds on stones, adding that it was unfair for him not to win, as he had to qualify for the AAG, while Gowaseb was an invitee and did not have to qualify for the Special Olympics.

The para-athlete says he wants to see changes at next year’s awards and appealed for fairness. He also had sympathy for swimmer Daniela Lindemeier, who stroked her way to three bronze medals at this year’s AAG, but also walked away empty-handed from the awards.

“She too didn’t win anything at the year-end awards. Judges should look into this, because they are demoralising us,” Shikongo fumed.

Chairperson of the panel of judges Talitha Jario shot down the accusations, saying the committee uses a point allocation system that awards deserving athletes based on their highest achievements at national, regional, continental, international, world or Olympics level.

Jario said they recognise and acknowledge Shikongo’s medals at the AAG, but his achievement was on continental level and was considered lower than Gowaseb’s medal, as prescribed by the judging criteria. Gowaseb’s achievement was recorded at global level, which gifted him the nod ahead of the nearest competitors in his particular category.
“Athletes need to remember that medals are not accumulative, since we do not concentrate on the quantity of medals collected at a single competition, but among others, the highest achievement gained,” Jario said.

Shikongo said he is satisfied though with their performance at Doha, as it shows the athletes are ready for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. “We just needed enough training. It was a tough competition”.

Shikongo also applauded the local Paralympic Committee for presenting them with prize monies for the medals they won. George Nambala received N$8 000 for his gold medal, while he (Shikongo) got a consolation prize of N$6 000. Johanna Benson walked away with N$4 500 for her bronze medal.

“That really shows they appreciate what we do for our country. The officials know we are unemployed and only depend on sports. We are now waiting on the government to see whether we will at least receive some kind of recognition for what we achieved at the world championship in Qatar.

Shikongo also blasted sport officials for cold-shouldering the athletes when they returned from the AAG, where they collected several medals. He is agitated by the officials’ no-show upon their arrival back from major tournaments, such as the AAG and appealed for consistency.

He strongly feels athletes living with disabilities are not valued, adding that able-bodied athletes always get preferential treatment when it comes to recruitment in the police and defense force, while disabled athletes are given the cold shoulder.

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