Benson and Ishitile shine in Glasgow
Windhoek – Namibian female athletes are headlining the impressive performances at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Among the athletes who have so far bagged medals at the games are 24-year-old Johanna Benson, who was a high prospect for a medal given her previous brilliant displays at the 2010 Commonwealth games in India and the London 2012 Paralympic games, and 17-year-old Para-athlete Lahja Ishitile.
Benson won Namibia’s first medal when she bagged a bronze after coming third in the Para-sport long jump at the Glasgow games last Sunday in keeping with her tradition of rising to the occasion on the grand stage.
With her first jump, Benson set a new personal best of 3.82 metres and although she could not beat that mark in her next five attempts, it was good enough to win the bronze medal, according to the Commonwealth Games website.
Jodi Elkington of Australia won the gold medal with a distance of 4.39m while Bethy Woodward of England was in second place and won silver with 4m.
Benson is not new to success at the highest level on the sporting arena. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games she became a national hero by becoming Namibia’s second athlete – and first female athlete – to win a Paralympic medal and also the first to win gold at either an Olympic or Paralympic Games. This followed the bronze medal she won at the India 2010 Commonwealth games, an achievement that landed her the “Disabled Sportswoman of the Year” award back home in Namibia.
Her victory at the London games received appreciation from across Namibia. She was given R170 000 in cash for the medals, a house in Walvis Bay, and a diplomatic passport by the government of Namibia. She further received money from private individuals, institutions, and organisations. Furthermore, she was given an offer for free training and physiotherapy for four years from an agency in her home town, Walvis Bay.
Five months after she was born in 1990, Benson was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after her parents noticed that the right side of her body was weaker.
The Namibian took up athletics in 2006 and four years later won a bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.
Due to her success in London, Benson was nominated for “Laureus World Sportperson of the Year with a Disability” in 2013.
At the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, Benson had to settle for bronze medals in the 100m and the 200m.
In the 200m, she broke the African record twice, first in the heats (29.20) and then in the final (29.18). In both races, French home favourite Mandy Francois-Elie took home the gold.
Ishitile also wrote her own piece of history when she won a bronze medal after coming third in the women’s 100m T12 final.
Okapanda Village-born Ishitile was behind Libby Clegg of Scotland who came first, walking away with a gold medal in a time of 12.20 seconds and Maria Muchavo of Mozambique (13.33 seconds), who was second.
Ishitile came third in 13.48 seconds.
Namibia’s two other 100m female sprinters, Anna Kambinda and Johanna Katjikuru both failed to make the next round after finishing last in their respective heats.
Kambinda ran her season’s best time of 15.63 seconds to end third, behind second-placed Selina Litt of England and race winner Maria Muchavo of Mozambique. Katjikuru was fourth in her heat where she ran 15.38 seconds in a race won by Tracey Hinton of Wales in 13.79 seconds, followed by Kenya’s Nelly Munialo on 15.10 seconds and Joyleen Jeffrey of Papua New Guinea finished in a time of 15.16 seconds.
Earlier on Sunday, Helalia Johannes came close to winning another medal for Namibia in the women’s marathon.
According to the reports, Johannes led the race with Kenya’s Flomena Daniel and Caroline Kilel for the first half of the 42km marathon, but on the second lap was not able to keep up with the two Kenyans and dropped out of the leading group.
With seven kilometres remaining, Johannes was, however, still 1:20 minutes ahead of Australia’s Jess Trengove and looked set to hold on for a podium finish. With three kilometres to go, Trengove, however, managed to catch up with the tiring Namibian and went on to win the bronze medal, while Lanni Merchant of Canada also passed Johannes to finish fourth.
A clearly disappointed Johannes crossed the line in 2:32:02 and had to settle for fifth place. Johannes’ team mate Beata Naigambo finished 11th in 2:39:23 after stumbling over the finish line. With five metres to go Naigambo fell into the side barriers and dropped to her knees, just to pick herself up again to stumble across the finish line, where she dropped to the ground.
According to reports from the Namibian team in Glasgow, Naigambo apparently sprained a muscle and had great difficulty in breathing as she came down the finishing straight.