Namibia off to Africa Games

Namibian wrestler Ester Abraham receives the national flag from minister of sport Agnes Tjongarero at the farewell ceremony for the Africa Games team. Photo: Helge Schütz

Namibia will be represented by a team of 78 athletes and 47 officials at the 13th Africa Games which start in Accra, Ghana on the 8th of March and continue to the 24th. 

The team held a farewell ceremony at Wernhil Park on Saturday where minister of sport, AgnesTjongarero, handed the national flag to wrestler Ester Abraham and requested them to represent the nation with pride. 

It will be the ninth time that Namibia competes at the continental games, since their debut in Cairo in 1991, with Namibia having won 63 medals to date. 

This time, Namibia will compete in seven different sporting codes, namely athletics, cycling, swimming, cricket, karate, chess and wrestling, and will be looking to increase their medal tally according to the president of the Namibia National Olympic Abner Xoagub. 

“I’m very positive that we can get a few more medals. I’m looking at archery because some of our athletes have already won African titles. Quinn Reddig is on topf her game and we are very excited and positive that she is going to qualify. She will also be going to an Olympic qualifying event in Tunisia in May,” he said.

“We want the wrestlerts to qualify, and to do that you must at least get onto podium at the Africa Games. That will be a stepping stone to the Olympic qualifiers and subsequently for the Olympic Games, so I’m sure that the wrestlers will pick up some medals,” he added. 

Most of the competing sporting codes will still have subsequent Olympic qualifying events, but Xoagub said they were trying to raise the standard of the African Games.

“The African Games actually started as the friendly games, then as time went by we tried to improve thequality of the games, to the level where elite African athletes could go and compete and subsequently qualify for the Olympic Games, the World Championships or the Commonwealth Games. 

“So discussions are ongong with the African confederations and the African Olympic committees and we also talked to the international federations to tryand get the games to that level where they become qualifying events for the Olympic Games, so that will really draw a number of elite athletes to the games,” he added.

“If we look at our neighbours, South Africa, for instance, they are sending more than 300 athletes but those are mostly development athletes in their B team and their top athletes will not be there. Botswana is doing the same – most of the countres are trying to send their top athletes to direct qualification events in May or June, because the closing Olympic qualifying date for athletics, for instance, is only on the 30th of June,” he said.

Xoagub added that they will not send a boxing team to Ghana, since they are competing at the world championships in Italy. 

“The boxing team left for Italy for the world championsips on Wednesday.

Last year we sent a boxing team to Dakar for the African qualifiers, but they did not do that well, so we talked to the federation secretary general and decided to give them another chance. We decided to send them to the world champs in Italy where the top four boxers in each category will qualify for the Olympics,” he said. 

The Namibian team will be headed by minister of sport Agnes Tjongarero and includes other government officials like the ministry’s executive director Erastus Haitengela; the director of sport, Jo-Ann Manuel; and the chief administrator of the Namibia Sport Commission, Freddy Mwiya; while the Chef de Mission is Tjeripo Musutua. 

The athletics team will not feature sprinting stars Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, but still includes some athletes who could qualify for the Olympics, like discus thrower Ryan Williams; 400m athletes Mahmad Bock, Ivan Geldenhuys and Andre Retief; and long jumper Lionel Coetzee.

The swimming team also includes Olympic hopefuls like Xander Skinner and Ronan Wantenaar, as well as up-and-coming  talents like Jose Canjulo and Oliver Durand. Open water swimmer, Phillip Seidler, who last month qualified for the Olympics, will, however, not be in action. 

Namibia will also send men and women’s cricket teams, with the eye on the 2028 Olympic Games when cricket will be readmitted as a code for the first time since 1900. 

In cycling, Vera Looser already clinched Namibia an Olympic spot through her international ranking last year. Looser, as well as Namibia’s top male mountainbike rider Alex Miller, who won a bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, will both be in action at the international mountain bike stage race, the Cape Epic which starts on 17 March, and will not be in action in Ghana.

The team, however, includes promising up-and-coming riders like Kevin Lowe, Adrian Key, Denzel de Koe, Olivia Shililifa and Monique du Plessis.

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