Health Workers For All Ltd
Registered Charity Number: 1149904
An Interview with Yona Walesi, National Swimming Coach for the Malawi London Olympic Team
Summer of sport: an interview with Malawi’s national swimming coach
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games made this a special time to be in the UK. Medic to Medic took this opportunity to find out more on the importance of physiotherapy in sports.
We interviewed Yona Walesi, National Swimming Coach for the Malawi London Olympic Team, on the week marking World Physiotherapy Day. This was Yona’s second time representing Malawian athletes at the Olympics, and he talked to us about training the athletes, his time in the UK and his thoughts on physiotherapy.
M2M: Being a part of the Olympics in London must have been a great experience, what is your most memorable moment?
YW: It was an amazing experience for sure and the most exciting moment was watching men`s 400m IM where Michael Phelps came second.
M2M: How did the Malawian athletes prepare for the games? Does Malawi have an Olympic-size swimming pool?
YW: Our preparations were mixed up because we end up doing lots fitness training other than specific training cause the water is too cold to swim, there is no heated pool in Malawi. However, our training camp in Gloucester was incredible. We had variety of different sizes head pools. And the environment was just conductive for training. Malawi does not have Olympic size swimming pool, let alone public pool! All pools we use belong to private schools.
M2M: How big is the Malawi medical team treating the athletes? Does this include a physiotherapist, if not, how would the team have benefited from one?
YW: I am not sure of Malawi Medical Team treating athletes. I know a few Physiotherapists who operate as independent institutions. Obviously, this is an important field which sport cannot run away from. Without physiotherapist I would have been out of sport myself! I once twisted my knee while running and I was assisted by a physiotherapist after a year later.
M2M: How important do you think it is to train more health care staff in Malawi at the moment?
YW: Malawi is a country which running short of medical personnel in all aspects! Both in government and private institutions, they unable to save Malawian cause shortage of staff. The importance of medical personnel is broad and wide. No nation can survive or improve its health care without man power.
Without a physiotherapist, I would have been out of sport myself!
M2M: Some people don’t understand the importance of physiotherapists until they need one, would you say that is the case?
YW: Yes, to those who are ignorant of Physios may think so, however, for sports men this is not the case.
M2M: It could be said that physios directly affect the career of athletes; do you think they play a key role in the livelihoods of the general public?
YW: In my opinion, most of the physios I know they do save more the general public than athletes! Accident victims, disability community and the aged people are the most groups which our physios do attend to than injured athletes.
M2M: Will Malawi be competing in Rio De Janerio in 4 years time? How about the commonwealth games in 2014?
I am very optimistic that Malawi will be represented in both events with more disciplines.
M2M: Finally, what words of encouragement would you have for our sponsored physiotherapy students?
YW: It`s a wonderful opportunity to be sponsored in such expensive and adventurous field! Work hard and be responsible Malawian Physiotherapists. I hope our sports administrators would utilise your presence in all sports activities.
Medic to Medic would like to thank Yona for his time, and wishes him and the rest of the team the best of luck in future sporting events!
Medic to Medic has piloted the support of Physiotherapy students at the College of Medicine in Malawi and is in the process of setting up a new programme called “REACH” to provide more focussed support for this discipline. There are currently only 27 physiotherapists in the whole of Malawi serving a population of 15million people.
We consider this an essential service for all parts of the community, particularly important in a country with such a strong economic dependence on agriculture. Our support will plug into a national programme to increase the number of physiotherapists practicing in Malawi, especially in rural areas.