Namibia’s leading athletics coach Letu Hamhola has set the record straight with regard to confusion over the Olympics qualification of sprinter Tjipee Herunga.
Hamhola is furious and says the issue of the required qualification standards and whether Herunga has qualified for the Olympics in Rio has dragged on for far too long, for reasons unknown or reasons withheld.
“I’ve been monitoring the situation closely and never wanted to get involved but when I read the local newspapers this week, I could vividly recall what Tjipee had told me after her race last Saturday, when I asked her why she looked so down having just qualified for the Olympics. She replied: ‘Yeah coach, I know people back home would want to find something to say that I didn’t qualify. It has always been like that with coach Letu’s athletes, we know.’”
He added: “It was heartbreaking to hear from an athlete that has just achieved the standard for the biggest global showpiece, which is every athlete’s ultimate dream. Tjipee is an Olympic semi-finalist, World Championships semi-finalist and All Africa Games triple bronze medallist.”
Hamhola says Herunga is arguably Namibia’s top track athlete after Frank Fredericks and Agnes Samaria, but instead of looking at how best athletics authorities ensure athletes are in the best mental and physical condition, “some officials have made it their sole beat to break them down”.
“Remember, Tjipee reads when she wakes up in the morning at 4am before going to training. She will read newspaper reports referring to remarks made by NNOC at a press briefing, which confirmed her suspicion.”
According to Hamhola, NNOC released a document on February 5 last year with the heading ‘ 2016 Rio Olympics Qualifications and Qualification Criteria for the 2016 Rio Olympics.’ In the case of athletics, the IAAF entry standards state the following: Qualification System and Entry Standards – Approved Qualification Systems for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, published by the IOC in April 2014.
All performances must be achieved during competitions organized or authorized by the IAAF, its Area Associations or its National Federations in conformity with IAAF, while in the case of Marathons and Race Walks, performances for qualifying purposes may only be achieved on a course certified by the IAAF and conducted in accordance with IAAF Rules.
An agitated Hamhola, also questions the IAAF standards as he tries to acquaint himself where it’s written that the All African Games do not serve as a qualifying competition, despite it being organized by the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), which is the Area Association for the IAAF in Africa.
He says its unthinkable that the continent’s august competition does not serve as a qualifier with all the top athletes competing, while an athlete can qualify at an athletics meeting in Swakopmund, as long as there are electronic timing and a wind gauge.
“I’m baffled by the NNOC statement on the marathon qualifications that they are still awaiting confirmation from the IAAF to verify the results and would draft a letter to AN to let alert them which athletes have qualified.
“This clearly demonstrates NNOC is not very familiar with operations of the IAAF, since it operates vice versa. AN will let IAAF know who has qualified as long as it’s an IAAF certified course.”
Hamhola remains adamant Herunga has qualified three times – with her 51.51 and 51.55 recorded at the AAG last year in September, which was a qualifying event, while she recorded 52.03 on April 9.
“Why pick on Herunga? Helalia Johannes had to go qualify in Vienna (Austria), Beata Naigambo (Valencia-Spain), Alina Armas, Ndeshimona Ekandjo and Lavinia Haitope (Botswana), Mynhardt Kauanivi (Cape Town – South Africa) but how did these athletes get there?”
Hamhola says NNOC did not give the athletes any financial assistance whatsoever and wants to know what would happen if Petrus Petrus qualifies too and is unable to afford an air ticket, but when he eventually qualifies, NNOC wants to brag that they gave him N$250 000.
“Imagine Daniel Nghipandulwa or Roger Haitenge qualifying on the 30th of June – how would the money assist them? Any person that knows and understands sport will tell you that money should have been availed to the athletes four years ago for the initial preparations,” says Hamhola.