From playing rugby to top athletics coach

By Michael Uugwanga

LITTLE is being said about Henk Botha, the coach of Namibian golden girls   Beatrice Masilingi and Christine Mboma, who are currently conquering the athletics world.

It is no secret that Masilingi and Mboma’s success is down to Botha’s good coaching methods.

Botha is a former Welwitschias captain and played rugby as a flanker for Namibia.

The 52-year-old played three times for Namibia with his first test match being against Zimbabwe in 2000 while his last test match was on tour against Uruguay the same year in September, as captain of the team.

He was also coach of Namibia’s men U-19 and U-20s in the late 2000s.

Before that, Botha who is now renowned as one of athletics’ best coaches given his rise with Masilingi and Mboma -both 18- was also an athlete specialising in the 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles but his athletics career did not last long as he chose to concentrate on rugby.

“I was born in Windhoek, we did a lot of travelling until we settled in Otjiwarongo. I attended my secondary school at Otjiwarongo High School and used to run in the 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles. I loved athletics but as a young man at the time I had to choose. But perhaps the biggest mistake I made was to choose between athletics and rugby, of which I chose rugby although I took lots of positives from playing rugby. I also played a bit of cricket.”

Botha has been responsible for funding both Mboma and Masilingi’s athletic journey even though the two youngsters are also receiving funding from the Namibia National Olympic Committee (NNOC) and a little support from the private sector.

“It feels unreal to coach them and I can say that these two girls are super wonderful.  They are like my biological kids. People in other parts of the world are talking a lot about them because they are afraid of them,” said Botha of the two teenage sprint sensations.

Although Mboma and Masilingi will not be allowed to compete in the women’s 400 metres at the Tokyo Olympics due to having ‘naturally high testosterone levels’, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the two girls will still pose a big threat in the 200m.

“Before a race I always tell them to close their eyes and imagine as if there are back home, so that they know where they come from. I do not want to make any promises at the Olympics but they will try. Our main focus will be at the World Junior Championship slated for Nairobi, Kenya in August 2021.”

Botha is the father to shot put competitor Karlien Botha, currently on a sports scholarship at the University of Alabama. Karlien is the current national shot put champion, and was also national champion in 2017 and 2018.

Said Botha: “I have two kids, a daughter currently in the USA on a scholarship and a son that is teaching in China. I also have Christine and Beatrice who are like my own daughters and I really love them.”