17 April 2018

Namibia: Athletics Namibia Hails Heroine Helalia

Athletics Namibia president Erwin Naimhwaka yesterday said they "are very very happy for Helalia Johannes after she won the 2018 Commonwealth Games women's marathon in Australia on Sunday.

Johannes joined boxer Jonas Junias Jonas as the only Namibians to reach the podium, with both excelling in their disciplines at the Games held at the Gold Coast.

Jonas was in imperious form when defeating Thomas Blumenfeld of Canada in the 64kg light welterweight category final on Saturday.

In acknowledging Johannes' best career achievement - which is only the third time that Namibia has won an athletics gold medal at the Games following legendary sprinter Frank Fredericks' 200m triumphs in 1994 and 2002 - Naimhwaka said the veteran athlete had given the country's ailing sport code a shot in the arm.

The 37-year-old Namibian won in two hours, 32 minutes and 40 seconds, 43 seconds ahead of Australian pair Lisa Weightman and Jessica Trengove, who finished second and third.

"It is a big achievement for Helalia. As you may have heard, she is the first woman to win gold for Namibia at the event. It also happened at an opportune time when sport in Namibia is reeling due to a lack of sufficient support in terms of resources. We hope that it will show corporate Namibia that there are opportunities for more corporates to come on board to support our athletes, and produce more sports stars," Naimhwaka told The Namibian Sport on Monday.

A veteran of multiple international championships and city marathons, Johannes' best run prior to the Games was at London 2012 when she ran a Namibian record of 2:26:09 for 12th position, while she was also fifth in the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

That she upgraded to gold four years later was not unexpected, Naimhwaka said. Her compatriots Lavinia Haitope and Leena Ekandjo finished seventh in 2:40:54 and 12th in 2:50:59, adding further weight to Naimhwaka's assertion.

"I was not surprised at all. Road running has been growing, and the calendar has enough events that allow athletes to get enough competitions. She has also been improving in terms of her international participation, and that experience paid off. I am sure she will still give more good performances before she retires," he noted.

"I believed the athletes were in a position to compete at the games, and indeed they have competed well. I just wish to congratulate Helalia for a job well done.

The AN official said they intend to help athletes improve on their performance in Australia through regular competition.

"AN's responsibility is to ensure that we have national platforms for athletes to compete, and that the best athletes get opportunities to go for regional and international competitions to get maximum exposure. With the little resources at our disposal, we will try to do just that," said Naimhwaka.

"Namibia possesses a lot of athletics talents, and we as a country need to see value in sport, and resource the sport for more athletes to get an opportunity to realise their potential."

Johannes and co are expected to arrive at the Hosea Kutako International Airport at 10h40 on Wednesday.

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