Sprint queen’s heartbreak

Having missed out on the 2006 Commonwealth Games through an Achilles tendon injury, the 800-metre speedster was one of the top-rated athletes expected to make a great impact in Mauritius. She ended sixth in the 800m race, her worst in her career so far. Samaria clocked 2:07.65 minutes where the winner, Janet Busienei of Kenya crossed the line in a time of 2:00:64. The Namibian struggled to get in front, and could only overtake two runners as the rest picked up speed nearer the end.

Also in the race, former Olympic and world champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique, had to settle for second place after Busienei surged ahead in the last 100m sprint to the finish line. Mutola clocked 2:01.08.

Samaria has long been considered the second best to Mutola and besides her failure to win the medals, she failed to book a place on the African team for the Athletics World Cup to be held in Athens, Greece, from 16-17 September 2006.

All the gold medallists automatically qualified for the 2007 World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan.

The reigning Namibian Sportswoman of the Year is a Commonwealth bronze medallist who has drawn a lot of attention after a spirited performance at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. She has won three Sportswoman of the Year awards in succession since then. Samaria’s withdrawal from the 2006 Commonwealth Games was a huge dent for the Namibian camp; henceforth her return has been eagerly awaited. She has already promised to represent Namibia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she vowed to bring home a gold medal before retiring.

Clocking 2:07.65 in Mauritius raises questions for an athlete whose personal best record was 1:59.15 four years ago. She has not managed to break that record ever since. On the eve of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, she hurt herself, having recorded 1:59.16, which was the closest to her personal record.

This June, the Namibian middle-distance runner came third over 800m in her first outdoor race of the season at the Prefontain Classic Track and Field Event in Eugene, Oregon in the United States on June 4.

Again Mutola won the race in a time of 1:59,95 followed by Jamaican Kenia Sinclair, who overtook Samaria down the home stretch.

Samaria was still in with a shot at winning the race when she and Mutola entered the final stretch shoulder-to-shoulder, but the Mozambican produced her trademark kick over the last 80m, while Samaria faded and Sinclair passed her to snatch second position.

With the retirement of Frankie Fredericks, Samaria is slowly losing her glow. The locals now rarely recognise the sport, and neither do they recount the prime of Samaria’s career when she outsprinted Olympic silver medallist Stephanie Graf at the Stuttgart meeting in 2003. It was her first indoor race at the Sparkassen Grand Prix in the German city where she came first and stole the world’s attention.

The Achilles injury seems to be putting the final nail on her career. She won the local Coca-Cola race in an unusual 2:03.74 before improving her time and then scooping silver at the 2004 Senior African Championships in Tunisia, recently.

However, despite the victories, it is no longer the speed of the same legs that carried Samaria to world attention.

In 2004 Samaria was still at her pick, when she progressed to the semi-finals of the Athens Olympics where she came out overall ninth position.

She was one of the three African women runners to reach the semis together with Maria Mutola and Moroccan Hasna Benhassi.

After the recent performance in Mauritius, Samaria will now wait to learn her new ranking in the world.

Last year, after the European tour, she was ranked 10th in the world. Over 450 of Africa’s finest athletes from 49 countries were taking part in the championships in Mauritius.

August 2006
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