It took Namibia 25 years an unusual Olympic Games, hosted in one of humankind’s most challenging times and under very arduous conditions, to win her first medal at the Olympics since 1996 – all thanks to the gallantry of 18-year-old Christine Mboma.
The nimble-footed Mboma clocked an astonishing time of 21.81 to clinch a silver medal in the women’s 200m final to finally bring an end to Namibia’s 25-year medal drought at the Olympics and in the process breaking multiple national, continental and world records.
Not only did the giants-slaying Mboma’s feat propel Namibia to inspiring heights, but she and Team Namibia’s achievements were accomplished in the most uncommon Olympics ever under trying circumstances, birthed by the raging Covid-19 pandemic that has disordered sports the world over for the past almost two years.
The just-concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where Namibia was represented by 11 athletes in five disciplines (Athletics, boxing, swimming, rowing and cycling), were staged a year late, following last year’s postponement due to Covid-19 concerns.
When the games finally kicked off last month under a strict “bubble” system to help curb the spread of the virus, it was quite clear that the Tokyo Olympics were bound to be the most unusual games ever in the 125-year history of the Olympics.
Unlike the traditional party atmosphere that characterises the Olympics, this year’s unusual Covid-hit games were resembled by empty stadiums, as no spectators were allowed; athletes took daily Covid tests, had to eat in separated dining hall areas in the Olympic Village, and all participants and officials were warned not to interact with those from other nations.
More out of the ordinary is that athletes and officials were ordered to leave Japan within 48 hours of their competition ending and even with the medal ceremonies, Namibia’s Mboma and fellow winners at the games were all required to place their own medals around their necks while wearing their face masks.
Away from the athletes, the Tokyo Olympics were the first in history to build an Olympic Village, using renewable materials, adopting the concepts of ‘reduce’, ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’ as one of the leading themes of the Olympic Games.
For example, participants slept on beds made of paperboard, more than 100 podiums were made of waste household plastics, while the gold, silver and bronze medals were all made from recycled mobile phones.
But in the midst of all those abnormalities, Team Namibia still rose to the occasion and produced one of its best collective performances ever seen in the last five Olympics.
But not only does the Mboma’s history silver medal win put the cherry on the cake, but the Namibian team had some of the best young top performers in the mould of sprinter Beatrice Masilingi, marathon swimmer Phillip Seidler, rower Maike Diekmann and mountain biker Alex Miller.
Masilingi, 18 years of age, displayed unmatched dominance to reach the women’s 200m final, where she finished sixth overall in a new personal best time of 22.28. Mind you, both Mboma and Masilingi were only participating at their first-ever Olympics.
Just like the two sprinting teens, youngsters such as Seidler, Diekmann, Miller and experienced marathoner Rainhold Tomas were all equally making their Olympic debuts – and although they did not bring home medals, their awe-inspiring individual performances stole the hearts of many at home and beyond. But perhaps most importantly, they are all now Olympians for life!
Not just the youngsters but veteran campaigners such as marathon queen Helalia Johannes, cyclists Vera Looser and Michelle Vorster all brought a unique touch to Team Namibia’s campaign in Tokyo with their experience and charisma. The trio also represented Namibia at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil.
Team Namibia arrives home
Meanwhile, the sports ministry has confirmed that Team Namibia will arrive back home tomorrow from Tokyo and is expected to land at the Hosea Kutako International Airport at around 12h45. The ministry is organising a welcoming ceremony at the airport and only invited guests will be allowed to attend as per the current Covid-19 regulations.