As the head of the chairperson of the National Federation of people with disabilities in Namibia, Gideon Nasilowski is cheerful, confident and passionate about swimming and life in general. One would hardly not even notice that he had a disability. But the journey to this point was not an easy one, he says.
Nasilowski was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita caused by inhibited normal joint movement before birth, resulting in join contractures.
Unable to to walk by the age of four, his mother, Poekie van Jader would push him towards doing things by himself.
“She would always tell me that your brain doesn’t have any disability. For a while I used to think she was cruel because she would push me as far as possible, but that’s what made me into the person I am today, ”he recalls.
In his teenage years, he was confronted with the harsh reality that there were some things he just couldn’t do. Seeing other boys playing soccer and rugby and not being able to join them was hard.
At the age of 26 while watching Namibian Paralympian, Reginald Benade scoop a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, then an obese man who weighted 105Kg, he was teased him that he would never be able to achieve anything like Benade did.
Nasilowski took it as a challenge and signed up at the Virgin Active gym the very next day. Within a year he lost 46kg.
In 2010 he travelled to South Africa for qualifications for the 2012 London Paralympics as a swimmer where competition was much tougher than he had anticipated.
He lost all his matches and failure to qualify for the London games only spurred him on, later travelling to South Africa in 2012 for the qualifiers of the World Championships to be held in Montreal the following year and becoming the first Namibian Paralympics swimmer.
With other life hardships financial problems, some people situations or other worries of this life, he now does not wish to trade his condition, which he once thought was a curse from God, for anything in the world.
He currently works as a Customer Care consultant at First National Bank (FNB), but his heart is in the waters, landing him the nickname, the amphibian Namibian.
“Disability sport is really picking up at the moment and if we only had more sponsors we would go further than we already have. It is the only sport that is consistently brining medals to Namibia and bringing the Namibian brand to the world,” says 29 year-old Nasilowski.
He enjoys cooking pasta and driving his car around. “I love to see the look on people’s faces when they see me driving,” he jokes. But what enjoys the most is swimming.
His desire is to retire from swimming after the 2016 Rio Paralympics and advance Lions Athlete/Swimming Club, a training club he founded with fellow Paralympic athlete, Michael Amakwaya.
“I want to be able to see a Paralympic or Olympic gold winner emerge from this club, but in order for that to happen, I have to make 2016 Rio games, so that when I encourage them on how to make it, I know what I am talking about.”
This Friday, Nasilowski leaves for Los Angeles to take part in the Pan Pacific Paraswimming championships starting on 6 August.
Through Disability Sport Namibia, he secured N$50 000 from NamPower to cater for his travel expenses. Old Mutual, Penny Pinchers and Fruit and Veg also came aboard to sponsor him.