The plans to have Namibians from previously disadvantaged community integrated into canoeing by the Namibia Canoeing and Rowing Association (NCRA) are still ongoing, and its president, Mike Haimbodi says they have identified schools that will participate.
Goreangab Primary School, Martti Ahtisaari Primary School, Olof Palme Primary School and Moses Van Der Beil are the schools that have been identified to spearhead the integration. They will be added to Windhoek High School, Windhoek Gymnasium and Deutsche HЪhere Privatschule Windhoek DHPS who have been under NCRA’s developmental wing.
“We plan to launch the program in August at the Katutura community swimming pool. We will have three coaches from Germany, who will come and teach kids how to play water Polo or Canoe polo. They are being paid by the German federation of canoeing and their mandate is to help establish teams in Katutura,” Haimbodi said.
He said the aim is to get these new players developed at a grassroots standard before they can move to an elite standard.
“After one year, we would then want them to begin competing at a local and regional level. Currently, we are the second best team in Africa behind South Africa, and we hope with the integration of this new crop of players, we can maintain our success and even challenge for the top spot in Africa,” he said.
As Water Polo is not the only sport code under the federation, he also revealed that there are plans to introduce Olympic codes to both Canoe Sprint and Canoe Slalom which, as opposed to Canoe Polo which only requires an Olympic-sized pool, the former require larger bodies of water.
Canoe Slalom is the event where canoeists navigate a short rapid river course of about 300m, whereas with Canoe Sprint, athletes race canoes or kayaks on calm water.
As plenty of folk from areas such as the Zambezi region and Kavango use canoes for everyday life, such as to go fishing, Haimbodi said that they have brought 11 coaches into the system to coach at level one which is mainly safety, balancing, steering and what to do if a canoe capsizes. Four of the coaches are from Katima, four from Hardap and three from Rundu.
Haimbodi is also hopeful the coaches can learn from the European coaches who will be coming in August, with the aim to have them take over after three years.
Haimbodi anticipated that the biggest challenge, even with a suitable team of previously disadvantaged canoeists will be finances as they would not be able to afford boats which can be quite costly, he therefore revealed that there are “plans in place to get help from the FОdОration Internationale des SociОtОs d’Aviron (FISA), the world governing rowing federation, to bring in experts that will teach locals how to manufacture industry standard boats.”
He further said, “In the meantime, they will also provide us with boats and other equipment for a low fee, €7000, which we are in the process of collecting.”
He says, one of the biggest challenges remains finding adequate bodies of water for training and competition, especially in and around Windhoek.
“You need about two meters depth of water to start paddling and we have a scarcity. Our dams are empty. Oanab Dam is too small. Goreangab dam would have been ideal but obviously it is not safe for humans,” he said, adding, “Another good option would have been the Friedenau dam, but the owners charge way too high for us to afford it. We only work on a voluntary basis after all.
“Another option was the Von Bach Dam, but there are a lot of motorboats, and we can’t navigate them.”
October will be NCRA’s biggest month of the year, when the African Championships take place, with a chance to qualify for the Olympics on the cards.