Amphibian Namibian to take on Robben Island stretch


09 November 2021 | Local News

Gideon Nasilowski; Swimmer; “Although I am disabled, I don’t stand back for anything or anyone.”

Swakopmund • [email protected]

Gideon “The Amphibian Namibian” Nasilowski is ready to tackle a 7.5km swim from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand in South Africa.

He and his support team were supposed to fly out to Cape Town today (Tuesday), however the weather shifted. “It’s already challenging dealing with the ocean; to add bad weather to the mix is not a good idea. Currently all plans are on hold. Once the weather is optimal, we will head out,” Nasilowski said.

The Windhoek-born disabled athlete came up with the idea to swim between Robben Island and the mainland during lockdown last year when Buff van Westenburgge, a South African swimmer, swam this distance in his swimming pool four times, for charity. “It inspired me, and I reached out to him. About a month later, he came back to me and he in turn was inspired by my story. I decided I wanted to take on the challenge to create awareness about people living with disabilities. There aren’t many opportunities for people living with disabilities, and I want to inspire a change in the prevailing system.”

According to Nasilowski, there is a lot of stigma surrounding people with disabilities. “With this challenge, I am hoping to inspire global awareness about disabilities and to change the everyday narrative. This is going to be my toughest challenge to date, as I am going to take on 7.5km in cold, shark infested waters.” Nasilowksi 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. “Although I am disabled, I stand back for nothing and no one. I have a wife, car, house and I’m employed as a manager. I live my life passionately and to the fullest. Often people just look at my disability and don’t realize that on the inside I am a warrior, a conqueror.”

Aside from participating in open water competitions, Nasilowski represented Namibia at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He participated in the 50m freestyle S3 competition, falling out in the first round after completing the race in 01:38:21s. The Amphibian Namibian has been training for this swim for the past 18 months. “I’ve sacrificed a lot time with my family to prepare for this swim. Through my training, I’ve clocked about 43km. For an ordinary guy, it will take two to three hours to complete the route, but I will spend around seven hours in the water, swimming from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand. The risks are immense, the water is cold at between 12°C and 16°C, so the chances of hypothermia are high, but my Heavenly Father won’t place this on my heart, just for me to fail.”

Nasilowski said that he is not scared at all and if he can inspire just one person, he will be more than happy. “If I can just get one person to get up from their chair, it will be worth it.” Interestingly, he was afraid of water as a youngster and overcame his fear when he learnt how to swim at school. “Swimming saved my life. If it was not for Mr Gelderbloem at Elizabeth Conradie Primary School in South Africa who took me under his wing and taught me to swim, who knows what a mess I might have been.”

He says that Covid has taught many people to do things in a different way. “But for people with disabilities, we have to find new ways of do something ordinary each day.”
Nasilowski has been training at The Dome as well as at the Swakopmund Mole. “I must add that our ocean is no playground. Sea Rescue assisted us. There were times when the waves lifted me about three meters high. It’s important that people remember to be extra careful while swimming in the ocean, especially with the festive season approaching. We need to have respect for the ocean.”

The message he would like to share with every young person – disabled or not – is to never give up. “If you want something, you have to work for it. When we decided to take on the Desert Dash last year, during training my bicycle broke at the 3km mark, then again at 8km and again at 18km. Through all the challenges, we made it to the finish line. Getting to the finish line at Bloubergstrand is going to be priceless. So, remember to stand up, stand strong, because as Namibians we are a lot stronger than we think.”

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