The African Athletics Championships get underway in Porto Novo, Benin today with Namibia being represented by six athletes at the continental showpiece.
Sprinters Globine Mayova and Hitjiverue Kaanjuka; 400m athletes Tjipekapora Herunga and Frank Puriza; 800m athlete Daniel Nghipandulwa; and triple jumper Roger Haitengi will join Africa’s top athletes in search of medals at the biennial showpiece.
According to times achieved so far this year, Herunga will be Namibia’s best hope for a medal.
Herunga already made her mark against the continent’s best athletes when she won two bronze medals in the 200m and 400m at the 2011 All Africa Games in Maputo.
This year she has continued her great form, winning several 400m races on the South African Yellow Pages series, while she also set a new Namibian record of 51,24 seconds at the South African Open Championships in May.
So far, that is the second fastest time by an African athlete this year, with only Botswana’s world champion Amantle Montsho going faster, with a time of 49,62. Herunga is therefore a hot favourite to win a medal but she can expect some stiff competition from Omolara Omotosho and Bukola Abogunloko of Nigeria and Thipe Tsholofelo and Rorisang Ramonnye of South Africa.
Globine Mayova has had a great season, breaking the Namibian 100m and 200m records and winning several races on the Yellow Pages circuit. At the South African Open Championships in May she set a new 100m record of 11,54 as well as a new 200m record of 23,39.
Mayova is now just outside the Olympic B qualifying time of 23,30 for the 200m and could well qualify for the Olympics in Benin.
She can however expect strong competition in Benin as her 200m time was only the ninth fastest by an African athlete this year.
Some of the favourites in this event include Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast with a season’s best time of 22,42; Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria (22,63) and Tsholofelo Thipe of South Africa (22,89).
Daniel Nghipandulwa will also be going all out to qualify for the Olympic Games in Benin. Last year he set a new Namibian record of 1:46,62 which was just outside the Olympic B qualifying time of 1:46,60.
This year he has been a bit off that mark, with his best performance coming in April when he came third at the Potchefstroom Yellow Pages event in 1:48,24.
Nghipandulwa is however way off the top African performances so far this year, with Kenya’s world record holder David Rudisha a strong favourite to win gold. He set a world record of 1:41,01 in 2010 and this year came close to that mark when he won gold in New York in 1:41,74.
Hitjiverue Kaanjuka won the sprint double at the Namibian National Championships in February, but he did not make much of an impact at the SA Yellow Pages series. His best 200m time for the season came in Potchefstroom when he finished sixth in the final in 20,93 seconds.
Since then he has won gold and silver medals in the 100m and 200m at meetings in Finland and Germany but his times are way off the fastest by Africa’s top athletes this year.
Frank Puriza was well off his best at the South African Yellow Pages series, but he has put in some promising performances in Europe lately. On June 13, he won the 400m in Turku, Finland in 47,80 and the following week he once again won the 400m in Ingolstadt, Germany in 47,43. These times are however way off his personal best time of 46,10 as well as the Olympic B qualifying time of 45,70.
Roger Haitengi set a Namibian triple jump record of 16,74m in 2010, which was just a few centimetres outside the Olympic B qualifying distance of 16,85m.
Since then he has however not come close to that mark, with his season’s best being 15,98m when he won the triple jump in Germiston in March.