…Helalia Johannes writes her own script
It’s quite amazing how times can fly, yours truly vividly remembers the day when a young skinny shy girl showed her competitors a clean pair of heels to clinch victory in the junior section of the maiden edition of the prestigious annual Old Mutual Victory Race series in Oshakati, more than two decades gone.
At the time, the author was some kind of a rookie field sport producer for the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) - covering sporting gatherings across the length and width of our beloved motherland.
I had a bit of a disagreement with the little girl as I was not exactly comfortable with the spelling of her first name but the gorgeous gap toothed young lass would not budge, vehemently protesting that her name was Helalia Johannes and not the common one “Hilaria”.
Well, I must admit that I was some kind of a bully and still went ahead against her wishes and re baptized her Hilaria Johannes, in my subsequent articles. Unlike other sport personalities who would call you insisting to pronounce their names correctly – little Helalia was not bothered and went about her business unhindered keeping her eyes firmly on the road.
After few more road races, it became obvious that the little girl from the vastly populated Oshana Region was light years ahead of her peers - winning races with relative ease, much to the chagrin of her more experienced competitors.
Despite her upsurge in the long distance running, very few people took note of her exploits, let alone her hidden talent, which could be possibly attributed to the serial lack of interest in long distance running amongst female athletes. At the time, Helalia was made to live in the shadow of her more celebrated colleagues Beata Naigambo, Elizabeth Mongudhi, Sigliede Gontes and the ever present Rauna Paulus.
It should also be acknowledged that local long distance male runners such as Luketz Swartbooi, Joseph Tjitunga, Willem Roooi (“Willy Red”) Willy Maasdorp and Ruben “Tix” Indongo dominated the scene – leaving female athletes to pick up the pieces for second rated citizens.
There’s this misplaced belief that people mature with age, absolute nonsense, age has nothing to do with maturity it all boils down to the following components; perseverance, discipline, dedication, determination and belief. At the fairly advanced age of 38, Helalia is still going strong, tumbling long standing records in devastating fashion. The reigning NSC Sportswoman of the Year award recipient’s recent astonishing victory in the opening leg of the Spar Women’s 10-kilometer Grand Prix in Port Elizabeth, South Africa saw the much improved Nedbank Club athlete clocking a remarkable course record of 31.50 minutes – setting a new Namibian record on foreign soil in the process. The Namibian golden girl surprised all and sundry when she also won the grueling 21 kilometer Two Oceans Half Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa, recently.
As it stands, Helalia deserves a decent pat on the back for her astonishing achievements on the international circuit. She’s doubtlessly certainly up there with our very best and can now be spoken of in the same breath as internationally acclaimed athletes Frank Fredericks, Jacques Burger and Harry “The Terminator” Simon, so to speak. Well done Helalia, you have demonstrated that perseverance and hard work has no peers. It’s now up to us to take collective measures ensuring that our golden girl is well taken care of in terms of proper nutrition, conducive training programmes and facilities.
It goes beyond any comprehension as to why our golden queen was not nominated as candidate for the upcoming SAUC Awards, on home soil.
A strong word of caution, decisions should never be influenced by sentiments, let alone be at the behest of blind loyalty and sympathy. Let us always consider the volume of participation and level of completion when choosing athletes for accolades. I rest my case.