After a successful stint at the Confederation of African Athletics: Southern Region, Senior Track & Field Athletics’ Championships held in Mauritius on 13 June, Namibian athlete Roger Haitengi now has his sights set on next year’s Olympic Games.
Haitengi, who specialises in the triple jump, is following-up on a successful 2014 where he won his major medal, a bronze, at the 2014 African Championships (which he maintains remains his career highlight as he achieved it after a two-month injury lay-off) with a thrilling 2015, which he hopes can catapult him onto the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“The year is going well, I am healthy and have no injuries. I jumped well so far this year, and just need a few more competitions before the big jump comes.
I also trained really hard this year, so I am in good shape, even better than last year. I just need a good competition to get that big jump,” he enthused.
At the Senior Track & Field Athletics’ Championships, Haitengi got a gold medal in the Men’s Triple Jump with a 16.12m leap, shy of his personal best of 16.74m, which he set in 2010 and which is also the national record.
Before that, his last competition was an ASA Invitation Meet in Cape Town on 23 May, which he won with a jump of 16.34m, despite some bad weather.
“It was raining, and the wind and cold were against us”, he explained.
However, despite good performances locally and at certain continental competitions, Namibia has not been able to produce a Triple Jump athlete at the Olympics or World Championships.
Haitengi says he is aiming to change that, and is aiming for aiming for next year’s Olympics.
“I have a great coach, Emmaire Fouche, and the training group. Some of my training partners are Zarck Visser and Khotso Mokoena, and we push each other to strive harder,” Haitengi said.
“We plan on going on training camps and start-off session as soon as we are done with this year`s session”, he added.
Haitengi argues that Triple Jump is not an easy event as one has to be strong as a thrower, fast as a sprinter and have stamina for the jump.
“So, it takes a lot of time to develop a triple jump athlete to jump far, and you need someone to specialize in the event to be able to develop the athlete.
With time, I think more Namibians will be performing on the level of the Olympics and World Championships.
But in order for that to happen, we will have to look at a good support structure for athletes. You cannot expect to produce or have performances at that level, without assisting athletes or having them in proper athletics’ programs or some form of structure”, he noted.
Haitengi said his biggest challenge is the lack of support, as he has to do everything on his own and pay out of his own pocket.
He, nonetheless, is grateful that the University of Johannesburg has been backing him and assisting him through a support structure, but they can only do so much.
“It’s not easy because other countries give good support to their athletes and they don’t have worries about anything, besides training and performing whereas in our case, we have to find the money, time and transport to get to competitions and so on,” he lamented.
The 31-year-old is doing a Master’s (M-Tech in Operational Management) at the University of Johannesburg, where he also works as the Athletics Manager.
He believes Namibia has a lot of talent, but they are lost soon after high school because of no programs to get them to the next level.
“If we had a program or support structure five or six years ago, we would have been on the level of the Olympics now already,” he stated.
“So, hopefully us seniors must keep on pushing hard, regardless of the current situation, which will then give inspiration to the young athletes to grow the sport bigger, and which will help to change things.
Jamaica is a small island, and did not just start producing star athletes overnight. It started with them supporting their athletes and starting programs, which paid off”, he added.
Due to a lack of funds, Haitengi is not sure when his next competition will be, but says he is working hard so that he could be selected for the All Africa Games to be held in the Republic of Congo during September.