A group of Namibian karatekas recently returned from a three-day training camp in Johannesburg as they build up skills and experience in the hope of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Namibia is aiming to send at least two of its top karatekas to the final qualifying tournament for this year’s Olympic Games, due to take place in Paris, France in June, and the Namibia Sport Commission and National Olympic Committee has worked out a comprehensive roadmap to assist the athletes.
Namibia’s top two karatekas, Suzelle Pronk and Freddy Mwiya Junior received funds from the NNOC through its Olympic Solidarity programme to attend the camp, while three other karatekas – Joshua Kunneke, Keanu Stuurman and Michael Nakapande attended the training camp at their own cost.
They were accompanied by coach Llewellyn Manale who said the camp had been very beneficial.
“This was a follow-up to a first training camp that we held in Walvis Bay in November, so we asked the Olympic Committee to assist us with another one. Then we organised this camp in Johannesburg which was attended by some top karateka from the SADC region and Africa, as well as one of South Africa’s top senseis, Morgan Moss. Morgan already worked with us in Walvis Bay, while the Johannesburg camp was also attended by some African karate champions. We need to get more top class exposure to get maximum results at the Olympic Games qualifier,” he said.
Pronk has been one of Namibia’s top karatekas over the past few years. She won a silver medal at the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (Anoca) Beach Games at Cape Verde in 2019, while she also won her division at the Region 5 Championships.
In 2019 she won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Karate Championships, while she also participated at a few Premier League Series events for the top 100 female karatekas in the world.
She said the course was definitely worthwhile.
“I worked with world-class athletes including some continental medallists and I needed to train in that environment to improve my skills. Sensei Moss also gave us a lot of work to carry on with so I’ll keep on working and improving,” she said.
Freddy Mwiya Junior has dominated his division at the Region 5 Championships, winning gold for the past five years, while he also won gold at the Commonwealth Karate Championships in 2019 and bronze at the Junior Africa Games in 2019. He said he had gained a lot of experience.
“It was a great experience to train with some top class athletes from SADC and Africa. It’s quite rare to find opposition teams training together, but it challenged me to raise my game and I gained a lot of experience.”
Sign up for free AllAfrica Newsletters
Get the latest in African news delivered straight to your inbox
Nakapande said he had learnt a lot.
“It was a great experience to train with these medallists and I got a lot of experience. We will continue with zoom lessons, so I’m sure I’ll make a lot of progress,”he said, while Stuurman added:
“We needed to adapt to the higher level of training and I think Ive raised my game.”
Mwiya’s father, Freddy Mwiya Senior, who is also the chief administrator of the Namibia Sport Commission said they had worked out a comprehensive plan for the karatekas.
“We have worked out a roadmap leading up to the Olympics. We will have back to back training camps in Europe in April and then in South Africa, and that will be followed by the Region Five Championships in South Africa, before the Olympic qualifiers in June,” he said.
Coach Manale, meanwhile, said that Pronk and Mwiya had the ability to qualify for the Olympics.
“Suzelle’s chances rest solely on her first round – if she can get past that she can build from there and her road to a podium place will be much clearer. Freddy does not have a problem on the floor, but he needs to improve his physicality and bulk up in the gym.”
“We will try to get another one or two athletes to go to the Olympic qualifiers, to make sure that more athletes get the same exposure and that it’s not just limited to two athletes,” he added.