Excited to plough back her wealth of knowledge gained over several years running for Namibia in international arenas, Helalia Johannes launched her sports foundation in Ongwediva on Saturday.
The Commonwealth gold and bronze medalist said the foundation will be instrumental in assisting young talented athletes to achieve their dreams.
“We aim to assist young aspiring athletes to reach their dreams. Not only those who are involved in athletics but sports across the board. I feel many times our athletes are not given the platform so, this will be the perfect start for us to groom future talents,” she told New Era Sport.
Still fresh from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games where she scooped yet another medal (bronze), the long-distance runner is dismayed by the ongoing infighting among sports administrators in Namibia, saying it hamstrings the performance of athletes on the international stage.
Voicing her disdain at the state of sport in the country, Johannes (42) said squabbling among sports leaders for years is obstructing the growth of sports and athletes from reaching their maximum potential.
A case in point is athletics coach Letu Hamhola, who recently questioned his omission from the Commonwealth team and accused the Namibia National Olympic Committee of becoming a “clandestine organisation that promotes people on the basis of white privilege.”
Bickering among football administrators as well as those in charge of gymnastics has also thrown the respective codes off course, causing tremendous disruptions in the careers of local footballers and gymnasts.
“For the longest time, infights have brought nothing but division in the sports fraternity, which is bad for the sport. A lot of athletes have failed to reach their maximum potential due to the fighting within the sports fraternity,” said the five-time winner of the Two Oceans Half Marathon.
“With such things, we will always fail to have top athletes because people who are in those positions to groom athletes are now focused on fighting each other which leaves them (athletes) on their own. I think if we turn focus and unity on working for a common goal, we would have so much to share with the world through our athletes’ performance,” she said.
Johannes, who made a debut for the country at the 2005 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, where she finished 80th, said the world regards Namibia as a nation with a lot to offer because of her good performances over the years.
“I think the world believes we are a powerhouse when it comes to athletics. If we look at how I perform at that level, I give tough competition to my competitors. Most of the times when I run, I finish in the top three or I finish in the top 10.”
The veteran runner believes that if more athletes are given enough platforms to showcase what they have got, “we will have more athletes like me and I am sure there are some hidden talents out there who are better than me”.
Johannes holds the Namibian records in the 10km, 20km, half marathon and marathon events. In 2019, she became a World Championships bronze medallist in the marathon in Doha. A year before that she won Namibia’s second gold medal at the Commonwealth Games 2018 when she won the women’s marathon.