From Run4Rio to Road2Tokyo

Last year I build a website, updated the social media channels and started a crowd funding campaign #Run4Rio for golden Paralympian Ananias Shikongo. Not longer after my return from Brazil, Ananias and the #Run4Rio team ask me to come to Windhoek to join a strategic session. We wanted to analyze the last year’s results and find a way to continue our international collaboration. I accepted the challenge and traveled to Namibia on November 8th. My first journey to the African continent.

Goals

The house of the Paralympic athletes Ananias Shikongo and Johannes Nambala in the Katutura slum

I set some personal goals to make sure I did something useful in this time in Namibia. I wanted to know more about the Namibian sports infrastructure and get an idea about the accessibility for people with a handicap. I talked to athletes (with and without handicap), members of the Paralympic Committee of Namibia and inhabitants of the country. I visited some schools like a special school for the deaf and blind. Eluwa Special School is the place where Paralympic athletes Ananias Shikongo and Johannes Nambala grew up. I also visited the athletes at home in the lively slum of Katutura. The medalist live in a shack. It’s almost unbelievable how they achieved the Paralympic Games from this situation. Also, the conversations with the guides of the blind athletes gave a lot of insights. It was the first time that they were asked about the project and taken seriously as an athlete. It was good to hear their frustrations, but also to see their involvement with athletes with a handicap.

From the Sports Leadership Program especially the specific knowledge about Sports Marketing and Sponsoring, Organizational Development and Finance & Legal aspect was of value during my visit. In workshops and brainstorm sessions around “From Run4Rio to Road2Tokyo” we build the foundation for the next Paralympic Games of Tokyo202. It was also a start of sustainable sports development in Namibia.

Primary needs

It was clear that we had to focus on essential building blocks for the road to Tokyo 2020:

  • Nutrition (daily meals, drinks, supplements)
  • Equipment (shoes and training clothes)
  • Transport (to training and competitions)
  • Training (coach, facilities)
  • Healthcare (insurance, sport specific treatments)

Ananias (red shirt) and Johannes (orange shirt) train at the Katutura Sport Complex.

Not only athletes with a handicap, but also the guides who assist the blind athletes (definitively elite athletes too) need support. Otherwise, you create a difference in level between athlete and the guide. As a result, it also stagnates the development of the athlete. Unfortunately we had a situation that an athlete had no food before training because of a lack of money. He had to quit the session after half an hour. Or the spikes are worn after two years (!) and there is no money for new ones. It’s almost unbelievable how these athletes won their medals in Rio. I have a lot of respect for their perseverance and the unstoppable efforts of coach Mike Hamukwaya to get the athletes on this level.

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Foundation

The team felt the need to collaborate in a more structured way. Also, for partners and transparency it’s to put the efforts together in an official foundation. Together with master student Sport Science Paul Gschwender I translated the outcome of the workshops and brainstorm into documents for establishing a foundation:

  • Foundation statement (mission / vision)
  • Foundation component purposes (what are the goals of the foundation)
  • Code of Conduct athletes and staff (how do we want to work together?)
  • Athletes & Staff agreement (arrangement of rights and duties)
  • Action plan to establish the foundation (medio March 2017)

I also gave a workshop Asana (project management tool) and Google Apps. Now everybody can use the same way of collaboration and communication in the project. The evening before I returned home we discussed the results with athletes and the team. We have to take some more steps before we can establish the foundation. I’m sure the foundation will be realized next year. It’s a challenge for me to manage the actions from the Netherlands and give the team tools to connect local and international partners.

#Rio2Tokyo

I came home after three weeks Namibia with a feeling that I could have been working longer in Windhoek. It’s a country full of challenges and opportunities. I asked a lot of times why some opportunities aren’t yet realized here and where are the investors?! You have to be creative to find solutions in this country. Also, there is a lot more criminality and corruption than in my safe Europe. The basics of a lot of facilities have to be developed yet. Certainly for sports. Otherwise, every step you make will have a bigger impact.

What we delivered as a team in three weeks is more professional than a lot of existing sport infrastructures. We have tools to achieve sportive goals together and to create a supportive environment for the athletes. With the team members and athletes involved we can make a step forward to a sustainable sport in Namibia on longer term.

Our international team (clockwise): Taleen Kazandjian (nutrition), Even Tjiviju (guide), Johannes Nambala, Ananias Shikongo, David Ndeilenga (guide), Frank Gschwender (team member), Johannes Laufs (team member), Elisa Ostet (marketing manager), Hanganee Urorua (guide) & Paul Gschwender (sport manager). Michael Hamukwaya and Memory Khalari of NPC Namibia are missing in the picture.

 

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