Nasilowski to tackle 2020 Nedbank Desert Dash on his Amphibianmobiel.

Windhoek, Nov 9-Former Paralympic Swimmer Gideon Nasilowski believes that his disability should not prevent him from reaching new goals, but should actually inspire him to reach out and break the boundaries of perceived possibilities.

Commonly known as the Amphibian Namibian, the 36-year-old Windhoek born disabled athlete plans to tackle the 2020 Nedbank Desert Dash with the aim of bringing awareness to the disabled sport and eventually to assist and help manage Paralympians in their sport and their future beyond sport.

Nasilowski was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC). The condition causes joint contractures due to inadequate amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb, resulting in fixed joints, weak muscles and bone fibrosis. When he was younger, Nasilowski was afraid of water, but overcame his fear when he learnt how to swim at school. He also tried playing football, but after breaking his arm a few times he decided to abandon that sport. 

The Amphibian Namibian attended the Elizabeth Conradie Primary School for disabled in Kimberley, South Africa before attending Academia High School in Windhoek from grade 8 to 12. He began competing in swimming events in 2011 at age 26 at the Central Gauteng Aquatics Championships in Johannesburg.

Married for three years now to his ever-supportive wife Jeaninne, and currently residing in Swakopmund where he works as Sales Manager for Namibian Fresh Produce Market, Nasilowski says he started cycling in 2015. “I wanted to get active, but also I was trying my hand at triathlon,” he explains.

When asked to explain why he decided to participate in the 2020 Nedbank Desert Dash, his response was simple; “The Desert Dash is a grueling race for able-bodied people, but how awesome would it be for a disabled-bodied athlete to compete in this race?”

This follows a successful stint in swimming that culminated in his representing Namibia at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. He participated in the 50-metre freestyle S3 competition, falling out in the first round after coming home in a time of one minute 38,21 seconds.

Nasilowski says that transitioning to cycling has its own challenges, but he is tackling them head-on. “I pedal with only one leg because my left leg has no knee and cannot bend. This has its disadvantages and makes it doubly hard to cycle. I make use of a hybrid tricycle called the Amphibianmobiel, which gives me some assistance in getting the cock to complete the full circle of motion when pedaling,” he explains.  

He adds that he has been fortunate that the forward-thinking owners of Desert Dash and Nedbank are assisting him and his team in preparing for this dream. He was asked by management companies Connect People to People and CWell to be part of a four-man team, which includes Dave Hammond, Dickson Vambe and Quinton Els, all able-bodied cyclists. He took up the challenge and is currently in the process of preparing himself and adapting the bicycle as he frequently confronts new obstacles. FitLine is sponsoring the supplements needed for the preparation.

Gernot de Klerk, Nedbank Namibia’s spokesperson, says the Nedbank Desert Dash is one of the most challenging must-do adventure events for any serious cyclist. ”The 373-kilometer event from Windhoek to Swakopmund through the Namib Desert, is challenging and demanding. Without teamwork, meticulous preparation and strength of mind, it becomes almost insurmountable. We are proud of the work our staff and partners are doing putting together this world-class event, which starts on the 11th of December this year”,” he says. 

As a motivational speaker, Gideon has the following wise words for other disabled people who wish to take part in sports, “Believe in yourself and know that God wants you to inspire other people. Everybody can be a leader; you just need to reach inside yourself, make the decision and take the first step. Find out where you can join a sports team through the Namibia Paralympic Committee or contact me for advice.”

Nasilowski spends his free time fishing, making YouTube videos, flying his drone and watching movies.

Robert Maseka