Four of Namibia’s track and field prospects hope to fly the nation’s flag high at the upcoming ISF World Schools Sport Games in Brazil.
This second edition of the multi-sport games, which runs from 19 to 27 August in Rio de Janeiro, brings together the best student athletes in the world.
Namibia enjoyed substantial success during the inaugural competition in Belgrade, Serbia, two years ago. The Namibian team placed sixth overall after amassing 16 medals – seven were gold, six silver and three bronze.
More of the same is expected this time around, albeit with a much smaller team made up of Lodewikus Viljoen, Lazarus Manyima, Alexandra Scheepers and Liezela Munyaza.
“The team in Serbia set the bar very high. I’m not trying to put pressure on you, but the standard has been set very high in terms of the medals and the colour which was mostly gold,” said Roger Kambatuku, the Namibia Schools Sport Union national coordinator.
The quartet is in for the experience of a lifetime whether they win medals or not. The debut games in Serbia brought together 1 849 school athletes from 36 countries aged 13-15, creating a unique context for high-level sport competitions, educational programmes and cultural exchanges.
Fourteen-year-old Windhoek Gymnasium pupil, Scheepers, is looking forward to her trip to South America and to improve her personal bests in the high jump and long jump events.
“I’m very excited to go. I want to do well, and it’s not just about the medals; it’s about the height and distance I jump. So, I’m going to try my best,” she said.
Likewise, Munyaza (15) is looking to put Lüderitz Secondary School and her region on the map when she takes to the track in the 100 and 200 metre sprints.
“I’m expecting good results, at least to end in the top five. If I could get a medal that would be great, but if I don’t I’d still be happy because I made it this far.”
Discus and shot put specialist Viljoen (14) from Pro-Ed Akademie at Swakopmund is aiming for a podium place.
“What I really want to achieve in Brazil would be to get anywhere on the top of the leader board. I really want something like that, it would be awesome,” the hulking teenager said.
Also with lofty ambitions is the diminutive Manyima (15) from Biro Senior Primary School at the remote village of Mukwe. He will take on the strenuous 3 000m, 1 500m and 800m races.
“I’m happy to be going to Brazil, it will be my first time out of the country. I want to perform well and hopefully get a medal in one of the races,” the soft-spoken Manyima said.
“School sport is a very important programme. This is were it starts. That’s were you identify and nurture the talent,” said deputy sport minister Emma Kantema-Gaomas.
“At the same time, I want us to challenge ourselves. We really need to do more, especially when it comes to our talent identification pathway. Because when you develop the young athletes at this age, this is how we are going to ensure that we have a senior team that we can expect medals from,” Kantema-Gaomas said.
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