In the midst of a brutal Covid-19 storm wreaking havoc in our country, two young Namibians have become the toast of the nation. Their recent exploits have captivated many citizens, while their victories have lifted the nation’s spirit, thus creating a sense of national pride.
The blistering form of local sprint sensation Christine Mboma and her stablemate Beatrice Masilingi is now the talk of the town as the duo prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will start later this month in Tokyo, Japan.
On Wednesday, Mboma produced a personal best in the 400m race at the Irena Szewińska Memorial Meeting in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz. Mboma ran 48.54 seconds – a world under-20 record and the fastest run so far this year. Masilingi was just as phenomenal when she stormed to victory by running a personal best 22.67 seconds in the 200m race at the Spitzen Leichtathletik Meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland.
There is no doubt the two athletes are primed to be the it-girls of Namibian track and field, given their immense potential and great running form in the last couple of months. The Olympics, this time around, will be their greatest test. It has been 25 years since Namibia earned a podium finish at the Olympic Games. To date, legendary sprinter Frank Fredericks remains Namibia’s first and only Olympic medallist.
Many commentators now believe Mboma and Masilingi can emulate the great Fredericks, and earn themselves a deserved podium finish in Tokyo. Under the tutelage of Henk Botha, the two youngsters, who are both aged 18, have shattered almost all national as well as some international records in the 200m and 400m disciplines, much to the delight of bewildered Namibians who have made it now a mission to follow their participation at international meetings.
Athletes such as Mboma and Masilingi are beating long odds to become national heroes, and possibly world superstars. Despite the odds stacked against them, these youngsters have taken off in a big way and greatness beckons, should they remain levelheaded.
The athletes have been inspiring, and deserve to be celebrated together with other Namibians representing the country this year in Tokyo, such as marathoners Helalia Johannes and Rainhold Tomas, boxer Jonas Junias, cyclists Alex Miller, Vera Looser and Dan Craven, rower Maike Diekmann and open water swimmer Phillip Seidler.
Yet, despite the overwhelming potential and dedication of local athletes, sport in Namibia remains hopelessly under-funded by both government and the private sector. It is true that funding challenges in this nation are becoming more intense as priorities become more. However, it is disappointing that the glaring challenges in sport are continuously overlooked by the powers that be.
We have totally failed to transform sport, especially at grassroots level, where real development is supposed to start. Without any meaningful and sustained investments, sport in Namibia will forever remain in a vacuum of underachievement and failed expectations. We need to prioritise sport funding, and consistently offer the necessary support to our sporting heroes who are mostly representing our nation under trying circumstances.