Namibian Athletics comes of age
A new generation of athletes came of age during 2011 with some top class performances on the international stage.
The biggest impact came at the 10th All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique in September, when Namibia’s athletes won three medals.
Namibia’s 23-year-old athlete Tjipekapora Herunga led the way with two bronze medals in the 200m and 400m for women.
On September 13, she gave a great performance to come third in the women’s 400m final in a new Namibian record time of 51,85 seconds. Her time beat her previous record time of 52,36 seconds, while she also beat the 2012 London Olympic Games qualifying time of 52,00 seconds.
She followed that up with another bronze medal in the 200m, once again in a new Namibian record time of 23,50 seconds.
Her medal haul in Maputo completed a great year for Herunga, who also won several races at the South African Yellow Pages series where she amongst others, beat South Africa’s 800m world record holder Caster Semenya.
Marathon athlete Helalia Johannes excelled to win the bronze medal in the Half Marathon at the All Africa Games when she came third in a time of 1:11:12. Despite struggling with flu, Johannes dug deep to give a great performance.
She was lying fourth for most of the race but increased her pace and managed to move into third place with only 500m remaining. It was her best time of the season and only 13 seconds outside her national record of 1:10:59.
Johannes, also excelled on the international marathon circuit. In April she won the Two Oceans Half Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa for the fourth time in a new record time of 1:11:56.
On October 31 she won the Dublin Marathon in Ireland in a new Namibian record time of 2:30:35 to beat Beata Naigambo’s former national mark of 2:31:01.
A week later on November 4, Johannes was crowned as Namibia’s Sportswoman of the Year.
Naigambo qualifies for Olympics
Naigambo, meanwhile, qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in October 2011, when she came seventh in the Amsterdam Marathon in a time of 2:32:10, which was well within the qualifying time of 2:37:00.
A year earlier, at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, Naigambo just missed out on a medal when she came fourth in the women’s marathon in a time of 2:36:43.
In September 2011, Naigambo won the gold medal at the Confederation of African Athletics Southern Region (CAASR) Half Marathon Championships in Swaziland in a time of 1:18:06.
Rising young stars
Several other young athletes gave a good account of themselves at the All Africa Games in Maputo.
Namibia’s 18-year-old field star Charlene Engelbrecht came fourth in the discus final with a distance of 44,98m, while she came sixth in the shot put final with a distance of 13,65m.
Namibia’s trio of sprinters Hitjiverue Kaanjuka, Dantago Gurirab and Jesse Urikhob all reached the semifinals in both the men’s 100m and 200m events.
In the 100m heats Kaanjuka set a time of 10,50, Urikhob set 10,40 and Gurirab set 10,6 seconds and in the semifinals Kaanjuka set a time of 10,36, Urikhob 10,42 and Gurirab 10,73 seconds.
In the 200m heats, Gurirab set a time of 21,71, Kaanjuka 21,31 and Urikhob 21,81 seconds and in the semifinals, Urikhob set a time of 21,54, Kaanjuka set 21,53 and Gurirab a time of 21,93 seconds.
In the men’s 400m hurdles, Hardus Maritz came second in his heat in a new personal best time of 51,40 seconds, beating his previous best of 51,67. In the final he came seventh in 52,29.
Namibia’s middle distance athletes Daniel Nghipandulwa and Kristoff Shaanika were both eliminated in the heats. In the 800m, Shaanika came fifth in his heat in a time of 1:50,90 while Nghipandulwa came fourth in his heat in 1:51,10. In the 1 500m, Shaanika came ninth in his heat in 3:55,51.
In the men’s half marathon Reinhold Iita finished 13th overall in 1:09:17. The race was won by Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia in 1:04:31.
IAAF World Championships
In August, Tjipekapora Herunga and Daniel Nghipandulwa represented Namibia at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, Korea but neither athlete made an impact.
Herunga finished 29th overall in the 400m heats, while Nghipandulwa finished 33rd overall in the 800m heats.
Southern Region Senior Championships
In July, Namibia came seventh out of 10 competing nations at the CAA Southern Region Senior Championships in Maputo, Mozambique.
Namibia won one gold, one silver and six bronze medals.
Herunga won gold in the 400m in 53,90 seconds, while Namibia’s men’s 4x100m relay team won a silver medal.
Namibia’s bronze medallists were Charlene Engelbrecht (shot put and discus), Hitjiverue Kaanjuka (200m), Globine Mayova (200m) and Namibia’s 4x100 women’s relay team.