Marathoners in limbo over world championship

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Carlos Kambaekwa

Windhoek-With barely two months to go before the gun goes off at the much-anticipated IAAF World Championships in London in August, local long distance runners are yet uncertain about their participation.

The affected athletes are veteran female marathoner and incumbent Sportswoman of the Year Beata Naigambo, Hilalia Johannes and Lavina Haitope, as well as male athletes Festus Iyambo and Leonard Nambala. All of them have qualified for the global showpiece, but their participation is yet to be officially confirmed by the country’s athletic governing body Athletics Namibia (AN).

The athletes have all clocked qualifying times from qualifying races in Spain, South Korea, Austria, South Africa and the Czech Republic, but one of the athletes who spoke to New Era Sport on condition of unanimity complained that since their qualification, they had not heard a word from the AN.

“It should be noted that we are going to London to represent Namibia as our motherland and it’s only common practice for athletics authorities to acknowledge our qualification and confirm our entrance into the world championship, so that we can start making plans for preparations.

“As marathoners, we are obliged to train way in advance to reach the maximum fitness levels required for long distance running, unlike athletes competing in the track and field disciplines.”

Contacted for comment on the issue, AN president Erwin Naimwaka acknowledged that the athletes are to yet to be officially confirmed, saying there was no need to start pressing panic buttons.

“I’ve already instructed the secretary general to issue testimonial letters in that regard and the process should be completed by end of this week,” he said.

Quizzed whether AN will assist the athletes in their preparations, Naimwaka said unfortunately AN is not financially in any position to avail funding for the athletes’ preparation: “Sadly, as much as we would have loved to assist the athletes, we just don’t have the funds at our disposal.”

Naimwaka added that AN has been found wanting in the area of soliciting sponsorship, partly because of the bad image created by the previous management. “Henceforth, I would like to urge athletes to perform better and set higher standards if we are to convince potential sponsors to come on board, while [we must] at the same time rebuild our image.”

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