Organisers stand their ground on Award sagaBy: STAFF REPORTER
THE Namibia Sport Awards organisers yesterday finally broke their silence on the Johanna Benson saga, maintaining their stance that the Sportswoman and Disabled Sportswoman of the Year categories should be kept separate.
The chairperson of the Namibia Sports Commission, Vivienne Katjiuongua, said they had separate awards for able-bodied and disabled athletes so as to give equal recognition to all. The Sportswoman of the Year award represents all able-bodied sportswomen and the Disabled Sportswoman of the Year award represents disabled sportswomen.
However, this distinction is not reflected in the Sports Act.
Katjiuongua said it was difficult to compare able-bodied and disabled athletes because they competed in different competitions with different standards, but in the commission’s view, the awards were on a par and the winners received the same prize money.
“In the past the sportsman and sportswoman awards have been put in the limelight, especially by the media, but it was never our intention to make the one sound more important than the other,” she said.
Katjiuongua added that they had decided to revive the Special Achiever award to recognise an exceptional achievement.
“We have revived the award for a top achiever this year, and for us we see that as the highest achievement,” she said.
Tim Ekandjo of MTC said that Johanna Benson was not excluded from the Sportswoman of the Year award.
“If you say she was excluded, it means that she was eligible for that award, which was not the case,” he said.
Ekandjo said the controversy was unfortunate. He felt that it is good to discuss issues that allow one to see how others perceive certain issues, but said it was disappointing that the debate had become a political issue.
“Unfortunately leaders in sport have resorted to public debate [on the topic]. One would have liked them to come together and debate the issue so that they can speak with one voice,” he said.
Ekandjo reiterated that the awards carry the same prestige.
“The sportsman and sportswoman awards are for able-bodied athletes, but the disabled sportsman and sportswoman awards are exactly the same, they just cater for people with different abilities.”
Ekandjo added that Deputy Minister of Sport Pohamba Shifeta’s assertion that he had instructed the organisers to revive the Sport Achiever of the Year prize was false and had ruined a pleasant surprise.
“That is absolute nonsense. We decided long ago that the Sport Achiever of the Year award will be given for the top achiever this year, because we had an excellent performance this year. It was meant to be a surprise, but now that has been spoiled,” he said.
Ekandjo said there had been discussions about combining the Namibia Sport Awards and the Disability Sport Awards into one national ceremony, but they would still have to have different categories, otherwise it would be discriminatory.