Namibia: National Treasures! … Mboma Wins Silver As Namibian Teens Stun the World


FOR the longest time it looked like Namibia’s wait would continue for its first Olympic medal since Frank Fredericks won two silvers in Atlanta in 1996.

Then Divindu’s finest, 18-year-old Christine Mboma, seemed to find another sprinting gear . . . and then another.

In those final metres Mboma had to fly past arguably the greatest woman sprinter of all time, Jamaica’s Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and America’s Gabby Thomas, who went into the race as the third-fastest woman to ever run the 200 metres.

And fly past like a runaway train she did.

Ahead of the Namibian was the undisputed current queen of global sprinting, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah.

But anyone who bets against Mboma seriously challenging for that crown in the years ahead would be an absolute idiot.

And let’s not forget Namibia’s other golden girl, Beatrice Masilingi, who, with her compatriot, carried the burden of expectation into the final that was too immense to contemplate.

She finished an impressive sixth in a star-studded line-up in a time of 22,28 seconds.

The future of sprinting looks bright, and it is most definitely Namibian.

Mboma’s time of 21,81 was another national and under-20 world record.

She seems to improve those every time she steps onto a track.

Perhaps the scariest thing for the rest of the world and those who will in future line up next to Mboma and Masilingi is that no one has any idea how fast they really can go.

They are far from the polished articles they will be in years to come.

Mboma’s start, for example, kept her hovering at the back of the field for what seemed like an eternity yesterday.

But that is far from a critique of her or her coach Henk Botha, who, together with his protégées, deserve honorary keys to the capital and a street name in every town of the beautiful expanse that is Namibia.

It speaks to unlocked potential, to what awaits the world when Mboma and Masilingi truly come into their own.

Take a bow, Mr Botha.

DREAMS DO COME TRUE

Back to Mboma, who yesterday became the youngest woman to win an individual sprint medal in 49 years – another bit of history for Namibia.

Speaking shortly after the race, Mboma said: “It feels great, and I’m really happy. I was here for experience, and I didn’t expect to win a medal. I had to focus on the 200m, but I know I can do better in the future. The people of Namibia are happy that I can take the medal back to the Land of the Brave.”

She has now immortalised her name in Namibian history by becoming the first woman from the Land of the Brave to ever medal at the Olympics, and the first Namibian to medal at the Games since 1996.

UNTOLD HARDSHIPS

Mboma has overcome untold hardships to stand on the Olympic podium with superstars.

In 2016 at the age of 13, she sacrificed her childhood to care for her younger siblings, following the death of their mother.

That selflessness and sacrifice have reaped the ultimate reward. Before 2019 she was unknown.

Before yesterday’s star-studded final, she said she was just a regular kid, running at her first Olympics in awe of not only her surroundings, but also the athletes she was competing against.

Mboma and Masilingi were controversially barred from their favoured 400 m event two weeks before the Games on account of their naturally high testosterone levels.

But both put that disappointment behind them to qualify for their first Olympic final.

Mboma now sits alongside sprint legend Fredericks, who won a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as Namibia’s most heralded Olympian.

He was among the first to acknowledge her outstanding achievement.

“Congratulations Mboma Christine, Namibia now have both the male and female 200-metre African records,” Fredericks said in a Facebook post.

Her historic display was also the perfect present for president Hage Geingob, who celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday.

“Wow, Silver for Christine Mboma! I wish to congratulate Christine for her brilliant achievement during the 200 m finals at the #Tokyo Olympics 2020.

“As a country we are extremely proud. An outstanding ambassador of our country, you have flown the Namibian flag very high,” he tweeted.

Masilingi is also one for the future.

Born at Katima Mulilo on 10 April 2003, and growing up at Rundu, she enjoyed sport from a young age and initially tried her hand at various sporting codes, including rugby, at her school.

But it was only in 2015 at the age of 11 that she started to take athletics more seriously, after winning some sprinting events at her school’s athletics events.

Today she can hold her head high as a major contributor to the immense joy her country is feeling.

Mboma’s story is well documented.

She grew up in difficult circumstances at Shinyungwe village about 130 km east of Rundu in the Kavango East region.

Her mother raised her and her two younger sisters on her own, but when she died giving birth in 2016, the 13-year-old Christine had to raise her siblings herself after they moved into a small hut they shared with their uncle and aunt.

“My mother inspired me a lot and always told me to believe in myself, because one day she won’t be there, and I must start building my own future because I was the oldest daughter,” Mboma said in a previous interview.

“When she passed away, I had to look after my younger siblings, so I became more responsible and started thinking more about the future. I started doing better at school, while I also started taking sport more seriously,” she said.

THE MIDAS TOUCH

Coach Henk Botha is a former athlete with a passion for developing sporting talent.

During a previous interview he said his coaching philosophy is to coach the total child.

“It doesn’t matter how talented the child is, I believe in focusing on just increasing your best and giving your best. By increasing your best and personal targets, you will reach the heights set for yourself.

Of his two protégées he said: “I actually didn’t identify Christine, she was given to me by the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service. But when I saw her, I knew she was a special athlete. “The first time I saw Beatrice, I just knew she was a bundle of talent and that she could take the world on. So, we started the journey together, and now, three years later, we are so proud to stand with them at the beginning of their professional careers.”