I would like to start off by commending the Namibia National Olympics Committee (NNOC) for its continued efforts in empowering and uplifting local athletes in almost all spheres, especially with the recent announcement that the NNOC had granted a total of 16 scholarships to the country’s various athletes.
The scholarships are aimed at helping the athletes compete at various qualification events to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games and 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Nine scholarships were awarded to assist athletes to attend qualification events for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, while seven scholarships will make provision for athletes to train at high-performance facilities to help qualify for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
The recipients represent archery, athletics, boxing, cycling, equestrianism, gymnastics, rowing, triathlon, swimming and wrestling.
Tokyo 2020 scholarships: Maike Helga Diekman (rowing), Jonas Junias Jonas (boxing), Matias Hamunyela (boxing), Tristan de Lange (cycling), Jean-Paul Burger (triathlon), Nestori Thomas (boxing) and Tryagain Ndevelo (boxing). Youth Olympic Games 2018 Scholarships: Adrian Grobler (archery), Sade de Sousa (athletics), Ivan Geldenhuys (athletics), Alexander Miller (cycling), Nadine Fleming (equestrian), Lance Potgieter (gymnastics), Heleni Stergiadio (swimming), Ronan Wantenaar (swimming) and Hafeni Asino (wrestling).
I was particularly shocked by the inclusion of the country’s amateur boxer Junias Jonas Junias, who still has a massive dark cloud hanging over his head. Jonas was arrested during last year’s Olympic Games in Brazil on suspicion of sexually harassing a house maid in the Athletes Village in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro.
His case is ongoing and of a serious nature, and equally, the outcomes of such a complex case are naturally unpredictable – so I was quite puzzled by the NNOC’s decision to award Jonas a scholarship while he still has such a serious case pending.
It makes no sense to me and the NNOC’s decision invites more questions than answers at this point in time. I mean, what if Jonas is convicted somewhere within the duration of his scholarship? What will then happen to that scholarship, which would have empowered another struggling athlete? And what was the rush of awarding Jonas the scholarship – why not resolve one issue and move on to the next?
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning Jonas’ boxing prowess or his ability to qualify for Tokyo 2020, but
I’m merely concerned about the integrity of the NNOC and the good name of the country as well as the emotional wellbeing of Jonas.
I equally understand that perhaps the NNOC is also trying reboot the boxer’s confidence and accord him more opportunities to compete, but I’m concerned with the haste at which the scholarship was awarded and the apparent lack of consultation.
I say let’s not be desperate to restore the boxer’s reputation – and policy should not be made on the hoof but proper thinking and consideration should be given due diligence.