Four years ago, Ananias Shikongo created history by becoming the first Namibian man to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold.
The 200m T11 gold followed by two bronze in the 100m and 400m changed things overnight – a life that had witnessed umpteen struggles.
From living in a town without electricity and water to moving into a brick house, Shikongo’s constant battle with poverty ended almost instantaneously. For once he need not think about putting food on the table as sponsors queued up. However, fast forward to 2020, like most, the COVID-19 restrictions has had its share of impact on the 34-year-old.
“I run a small business selling fruits, vegetables and other perishable goods for my livelihood but due to the pandemic, I had to rely on my parents who are communal farmers and my coach for financial assistance to supplement my income,” said Shikongo, who lost sight in both eyes, in two separate accidents at age 3 and 6.
“Coming from a big family of five sisters and three brothers, I am grateful for the support I always get from them through my life and during lockdown, it was no different. I would ask everyone including my fellow athletes to support each other during these times of test. Everyone needs family and friends support to remain motivated and be mentally stable,” added Shikongo.
Making the most
Shikongo, a graduate in physiotherapy, also chose the lockdown as a perfect opportunity to discover his mentoring skills while training his 6-year-old son, nephew and other children from the neighbourhood.
“I was teaching them how to be a guide to athletes who are blind. I really enjoyed working with these young people to promote Para athletics in my nation and beyond. Normally, I would not have had the time to do this, as my schedule is always packed, but with the lockdown, I was able to take advantage and pass on my expertise,” said Shikongo.
The Paralympic champion, who hails from a small town of Katutura Namibian capital Windhoek, also started a foundation – ‘Sport on the move’ to support Para athletes and is using marketing skills to raise awareness about the Paralympic Movement in his country.
“I decided to enrol in a marketing course at a local university so as to acquire skills which would help me communicate better with authorities. There is very little awareness about Para sport and the change that it can bring for the disabled. I want to raise funds through the foundation to assist potential athletes, make them competition ready and that can be only be possible if their day-to-day life is secure.”
Confident of retaining title
Despite the current crisis and the postponement, Shikongo is confident of defending his title at Tokyo 2020. He sees the postponement as a ‘blessing in disguise’.
“I have to confess that I wasn’t ready. I felt I was not in top shape had the Games been held in the summer of 2020. The extra year would help me to get back into shape and be at my peak,” said Shikongo.
“Most of them (rivals) are my good friends and I rate them highly, especially, David Brown (USA) and Lucas Prado (Brazil) who are my fierce rivals but have always encouraged him to keep going. I will definitely be giving my best at Tokyo.”