Former middle-distance star now tours southern Africa

TOUR GUIDE … Former middle distance runner Vilho Namufinda (second from right) strikes a post with a group of German tourist. Namufinda has his own tour facilitating company Mebezo Safaris.

Former national middle-distance runner Vilho Namufinda was one of the most competitive and consistent runners in his heyday.

Born at Nkurenkuru in the Kavango West region, Namufinda moved to Windhoek with his parents, where he started school at Mandume Primary School.

He moved on to Namutoni Senior Primary School before he finally went on to matriculate at A Shipena Secondary School, where he took his athletics career to another level.

It was, however, not until he met long-distance running enthusiast Joshua ‘Bravo’ Kahitu that he blossomed.

GOLF STAR … Former Sunshine Athletics Club runner Vilho Namufinda started playing golf before his accident in 2000 while based at Oshakati. He still plays regularly with his former athletics coach at Nust Corneels Jafta.

“I have always loved running. So much that I didn’t do any other sport. For me it was always the middle distances, like the 800m, 1 500m and the 3 000m at school,” Namufinda says.

“Bravo came to recruit me and my A Shipena schoolmates to join his Sunshine Athletics Club.”

Namufinda and his schoolmates also participated in cross-country events and got exposed to longer distances, like the street mile, the 16km run, the half-marathon and the full marathon after joining Sunshine.

“I was mostly participating in the 1 500m event, also for the Namibian Schools Sport Union (NSSU), the Tertiary Institutions Sports Associations of Namibia (Tisan) team, and the Confederation of Universities and Colleges Sport Association Games,” he says.

“I was among the very first junior athletes to represent the NSSU team outside the country after independence. I was with other young athletes like Benedictus Botha and Ralph Blaauw when we went to Botswana with the first unified black-and-white schools team.”

His involvement with the Tisan team took him to countries around southern Africa, while he also made it into the national cross-country team that represented the country in Swaziland.

Namufinda says his former coach, Willie Greyling, once had to drive him to Klerksdorp in South Africa for a provincial under-19 competition, because the NSSU had limited space on the bus travelling there.

The serial male athlete of the year is also a proud former champion of the national 1 500m race, which he won for two consecutive years.

“I had another proud moment when I won a 16km race,” Namufinda says.

DOUBLE CHAMP … Vilho Namufinda (left), going toe-to-toe with an unidenti- fied opponent at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium, is a two-time national 1 500m champion.

“I also gave a good account of myself in the street mile and enjoyed very good moments before the arrival of one Luketz Swartbooi, who became a dominant figure on the local middle-distance and long-distance scene,” he says.

Although he never had the opportunity to represent Namibia at the big stages Namufinda was part of the team that participated at the World Student Games in Buffalo, United States.

While he also tested his strength in the 10km and the famous Fish River Canyon races, Namufinda says he would have loved to experience the Olympic Games.

“Nevertheless, I am more than happy with my athletics achievements. I have learnt that you can never wish for more than you can offer.

“Everything happens for a reason, and it was written in my life book that I will only get this much,” he says. Namufinda may not have had the chance to become a professional athlete, but he was accorded the chance to attend a coaching course in Kenya.

The retired runner married Florida Namufinda 11 years ago and the couple has four children.

Namufinda, who used to own an MTC Mobile Home outlet at Ondangwa, is self-employed and is currently running his own company, Mebezo Safaris, as a tour facilitator.

“I initially cut my sport administration career short to open the first MTC Mobile Home at Ondangwa. Business was going very well until I got involved in a near-fatal car accident.

“I broke my back and had two operations, and my life was never the same again,” he says.

“I am a tour facilitator, meaning I put tours together while I also do professional tour guiding.

“I only do German tours in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia, of course.”

“This is a very exciting career, but it also comes with its challenges, the biggest which is to be away from home constantly – even for a whole month. You will only be home for one week and you are gone again. This year tourism has picked up tremendously,” he says.

FAMILY OUTING … Vilho and Florida Namufinda enjoying a family outing with their son Ligorius, who is one of their four children.

“The tourism season starts in April – then you become seriously busy. As a tour facilitator you don’t need to own a car, but you need your own car when you are a tour operator.

“Right now I am on the safe side, because I only rent a car to take my guests around.”

Namufinda, who has also completed an intensive athletics coaching course in Mainz, Germany, says Moses Maasdorp was his toughest opponent during his days as a runner.

Apart from coaching students at the Namibia University for Science and Technology and the University of Namibia, he has also been the chairperson of the selection committee of Athletics Namibia, and the chairperson of Khomas Athletics.

Namufinda encourages young people to participate in sport.

“Sport interaction has made my life better. When you do sport, you don’t see race or skin colour, and you mature due to the cultural diversity in Namibia. It develops people,” he says.

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