When Namibia’s two last competitors at this year’s Olympic Games, Helalia Johannes and Tomas Rainhold, take to the road in the women’s and men’s marathon races this weekend, they will not only be competing against the best runners in the world, but will also be running against the elements in Japan.
The 42.2km race is one of the longest endurance events at the Games and is particularly sensitive to high temperatures, while weather predictions for this weekend show maximums of between 31 and 34 degrees Celsius.
Heat has been a persistent concern for organisers, with a raft of counter-measures drawn up, including misting stations and ice jackets, as well as moving the marathon race 800km north of Tokyo to Sapporo in a bid to escape the worst of the heat.
The two runners, with their coach Robert Kaxuxwena, have been in Japan for about a week to acclimatise. But they still find the hot and humid weather a challenge. Kaxuxwena told this publication that the weather remains an obstacle, but maintained they will do well. “The preparation for Helalia and Tomas went well, and mentally they are both ready for their events. The weather conditions are humid and hot, but to all supporters of Helalia and Tomas, they must keep on supporting. Good things will come home,” he enthused.
Johannes (40), will be in action tomorrow, and is up against 87 runners, including Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei, who goes into the race ranked first with her time of 2:14:04. Johannes, who indicated earlier that this would be her last Olympics, has a personal best of 2:19:52, attained last December.
This is her fourth Olympics, with her best placement being 11th overall with a time of 2:26:09 achieved at the 2012 London Olympics.
Rainhold (30), on the other hand, is making his Olympic debut on Sunday, and is out to impress. He told this publication earlier that going to the Olympics is a realisation of his long-held dreams, and winning silverware in Tokyo will be a bonus. His personal best is 2:10:24 set in April this year, and his target for Tokyo is 2:10:00.
Approached for comment, former Olympian and marathon runner Beata Naigambo said she is confident Johannes and Rainhold will put up their best performances at the Games. She observed that Johannes is an experienced marathon runner, and knows she had prepared well for this Olympics.
“With some luck, she could replicate (Christine) Mboma’s performance and bring us a medal,” added Naigambo. About Rainhold, she felt that despite him being a debutant at the games, he will put up an overwhelming performance.