Namibian teenagers bring tears of joy to the nation

By Michael Uugwanga

IT was an incredible journey for two Namibian teenagers who won the hearts of many globally, following their classy performances against Olympic elites at the Tokyo Games.

The two 18-year-olds, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi are no doubt the heir to Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah, a two-time Olympic Games double winner in the 100m and 200m, first at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, before following it up with another double in Tokyo.

The Namibian golden girls have already broken their own personal records at the Olympic Games, with Mboma running the 200m race in a time of 22.11 in the early morning hours of Monday before making history later in the day when she clocked 21.97, a new record for someone under the age of 20.

Mboma’s best moment in her athletics career to date came when she took a silver medal in the women’s 200m on Tuesday in a time of 21.81, which is also her new personal best.

Masilingi could only finish in sixth place with a time of 22.28.

The teenagers that are currently residing in Grootfontein under the watchful eye of their father figure in Henk Botha who is also their coach, have caught the attention of international media and other fellow sprinters given their explosive performance against some of the world’s living legends.

Mboma made the biggest history, not only in Namibia but globally by becoming the first Namibian female runner to win a medal at the Olympic Games after Frank Fredericks, a four time Olympic silver medalist in the 100m and 200m from two Olympic Games (Barcelona and Atlanta Games respectively).

Mboma was up against arguably the best female runner of the current generation in Thompson-Herah who seemingly ran as if she was alone, however had it not been Mboma’s slow start in the first 80 metres of their 200m race, things could have been differently, with the Namibian teenager coming from nowhere to reduce the distance between her and Thompson-Herah to 28 seconds.

For Mboma, this is just the beginning for more Olympic medals to come as she already demonstrated that on Tuesday.

The medal from Mboma was a good birthday present for the head of state President Hage Geingob who turned 80 also on Tuesday.

For Masilingi the future looks brighter as she also beat her previous record of 22.40 on Monday in second place, before lowering that with an impressive time of 22.28 on Tuesday.

On behalf of the Namibian nation, Geingob congratulated the two athletes and their coach for their brilliant achievements.

“Wow, Silver for Christine Mboma! I wish to congratulate Christine for her brilliant achievement at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. As a country, we are extremely proud. An outstanding ambassador of our country, you have flown the Namibian flag very high. Beatrice Masilingi, you have done us proud. You put up a brave performance in the 200m finals at the Olympics. Even if you didn’t walk away with a medal, the future is bright for you and we are proud of you. Coach Henk Botha, thank you for nurturing these exceptional talents.”

Athletics Namibia’s president Erwin Naimwhaka is over the moon and sees a bright future for Namibia in athletics.

“I was watching the final from Athletics Namibia’s office. Reaching the final was already a big achievement and the silver medal came as a bonus,” said Naimwhaka.

Coach of Namibia’s paralympic team, Michael Hamukwaya who knows well how it feels like to win a medal at the Games said that Mboma’s success is a true sign that the country has lots of talented athletes.

Hamukwaya is coach to Johanna Benson, the first Namibian Olympian to win a gold medal in the women’s 200m T37 at the London Paralympic Games in 2012 before adding a silver medal at the same event in the women’s 100m T37.

“This is exciting news for the country. It is just extra special. This is a sign that we have lots of talent in the country. I was watching it from home with a friend. I also want to thank their coach for investing heavily in these two athletes,” said Hamukwaya.

Ananias Shikongo became the first  male to win a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in 2016 when he won the men’s 200m T11 in Rio, Brazil, while Johannes Nambala is the only male paralympian to win silver medals at the Paralympics Games when he took home two silver medals in the 100m T13 and 400m T13 also in Rio.