when Martin Amutenya, 24, strolls the streets, he often attracts glances from random pedestrians who probably wonder what might have happened to leave him with horrible burn scars on his face and several missing or disfigured fingers.
Despite his condition, Amutenya, who was not born disabled, has represented the nation in two Paralympic Games and seen more of the world than most of his sympathisers.
According to him, his current physical condition was a result of a vengeful act when he was only a baby. The tale unfolds like one of those from the Old Testament, particularly, Solomon’s in which Amutenya recollects a story his mother, Martha Namuwa, told him years ago.
“When I was only a month old, my mother’s friend wanted to exchange her baby with me but my mother refused. This upset her and in retaliation, she put a plastic bag over my face and lit it with a candle,” Amutenya relates.
This happened at Döbra camp, about 7km off Windhoek on the way to Okahandja. His mother could not believe he had survived the ordeal. She thus battled with the sight of him in that state, fighting for his life at Windhoek’s Roman Catholic Hospital.
Turns out the woman who burned him committed suicide soon after the incident. But a top official currently involved with sports for disabled people named Penandino Kandjii would step in to help Amutenya’s mother take care of him.
Amutenya later began his education at the Windhoek School for the visually impaired in 1996 where he completed his Grade 10 in 2010. It was at the school that Amutenya developed a love for sports.
This was rewarded by an invitation to participate in a sprint race in 2005. Although initially reluctant to partake in it, Amutenya says he became instantly enthused once he learnt this would open an opportunity to partake in a related competition in South Africa.
When he landed the opportunity, he clocked up three gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races, respectively. He eventually had to drop out of school because his vision continued to deteriorate due to the cataracts and the unstable skin over it.
“Sometimes I would have to put my nose right on a book to read a page but it started taking a toll on me, especially when I would be expected to read five or six 200-paged books. I hope a Good Samaritan helps me pay for an eye operation to remove the cataracts and fix the skin around my eye,” explains Amutenya.
The added challenge is having only a few fingers since the rest were burned or disfigured during the malicious act. However, Amutenya can still operate a computer, send and receive text messages, as well as make calls. Given the over 90 medals he has won, to date, his confidence and self-believe thus remain intact.
Amutenya has served and continues to serve as a motivational speaker on several occasions at various schools, including the Hage Geingob High School, Immanuel Shifidi High School, Highline High School and Etalaleko and Nita Iitula high schools in Okahao in the North.
Earlier this month, he travelled with the deputy minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Juliet Kavetuna, to Outapi to give a motivational speech at a youth conference.
Amutenya reveals despite giving encouragement to countless youth in many parts of the country, he has suffered many episodes of extreme depression as recently as last year. As such, he has contemplated suicide during those episodes but would remind himself that there were thousands of people in this world who still loved him.
Amutenya has won the Disabled Sportsman of the Year award three times and submits, his childhood dream was to be a pilot. Although currently unable to fulfil that dream, he says he would still like to skydive blindfolded, “so I can show people disability is not inability.”
He was disappointed not to take part in the last Paralympics in London after he broke a vein in his right leg at a training camp in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Given his hard work in the recent past, he hopes to win a gold medal at the next Paralympics in Brazil.
Anyone wishing to help pay for his eye operation can call 081 801 9712.