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Young, gifted and determined

Athletes in training: Ndeshimona Ekandjo, Jonathan Mwandingi and Lavinia Haitope at the Katutura Youth Complex Stadium. (Photograph Yvonne Amukwaya)

Athletes in training: Ndeshimona Ekandjo, Jonathan Mwandingi and Lavinia Haitope at the Katutura Youth Complex Stadium. (Photograph Yvonne Amukwaya)

This week the Economist caught up with Lavinia Haitope, the senior female winner of this year’s Old Mutual Victory race. Clearly a force to be reckoned with, a soft spoken Haitope has made her mark as one of the leading sportswomen in the country.
Twenty-two-year old Haitope hails from Eenhana, in the Ohangwena region and dreams to be a big star. “I find inspiration from athletes such as Frankie Fredricks that kept the flag of this country high and that is what I dream to do for my country,” she said.
A dedicated Haitope started taking athletics serious in 2010 and has gone as far as taking part in this year’s Half Marathon event in Australia. She says of the race: “Although I did not perform too well,  I gave it my best shot and that is important as an athlete as it helps you improve in your next marathon.”
Haitope recently brought home a silver medal in the 10km half marathon race in Cape Town and is currently preparing for the 10km Soweto Marathon set to take place in Johannesburg on 04 November.
Although she would like to take part in more races, like most athlets, she says financing for athletes is a hassle in the country. “Money is a major problem. You can be fully prepared for any race but if you dont have money, you simply cannot compete and build a record.”
Haitope says being an athlete is rewarding but issues surrounding financing is a constraint for most of the local athletes.
“People think you just get up, run and win and get money but there are greater issues at stake. One needs running shoes which are expensive and cost above N$1000 and one needs at least two pairs of these for training and another for the official races,” stressed Haitope.
She likened athletes to driving a car. “You cannot drive your car without petrol or checking its engine oil, and that is the same with us. We need supplements to keep our heart in shape and boost our speed alongside a proper balanced diet and all this is costly.”
Regardless, Haitope says conditions in Namibia are favourable although there is still room for improvement. She encourages the private sector as well as individuals to come on board and support local athletes “as they are the ones that keep the flag of the country high and proud during international games.”
She envisions herself at the next Olympics. “Although I have a heavy task ahead of me, I know I will make it because I have support and a solid training schedule.”
Haitope is signed under the Ohangwena Star Club and is taking part in th RSK Half Marathon race taking place this weekend in Rehoboth.

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