Namibia: Golden Girls Light Up Prague

A stunning victory at the Josef Odlozil Memorial in Prague on Monday evening has thrust Christine Mboma and her third-placed compatriot Beatrice Masilingi into the international limelight.

Competing in Europe for the first time, the two Namibians lit up the track in the women's 200m race, which also included the African champion Gina Bass from Gambia and other European contenders.

Masilingi got off to a great start, shooting out of the blocks, and going down the home straight she and Bass were fighting it out for the lead. By contrast, Mboma had a poor start and was well behind at the half way mark, but she somehow managed to claw her way back into contention, before producing a stunning final surge to split the tape.

Mboma's winning time of 22,67 seconds was a new personal best, while it also set a new meeting record, breaking the former mark of 22,74 that Stephanie Durst of the United States set in 2007.

Bass finished second in 22,76 seconds, while Masilingi came third in 22,82, which was a bit off her national record of 22,38 that she set two months ago at the national championships.

Their coach Henk Botha was delighted with their performances.

"We are so happy with the results. My dream was a first and second place, no matter who won, but unfortunately Beatrice just missed her stride at the 50m mark. These things happen with athletes and she just lost her rhythm there, but that is maybe just a bit of inexperience. At the Olympics it will definitely be better handled than now," he said.

Regarding Mboma, he said she could develop into a world beater.

"There is still a lot of work to be done on her technique, but if she can get all of that in order, then she can compete with the fastest women in the world. I'm so proud of the two girls, just thinking that they beat the African champion and the world championship finalist, so we are very chuffed and over the moon."

He added that Mboma could still improve a lot.

Ÿes, we know that Christine is a slow starter, and we are working on that, but Rome wasn't built in a day and these things take time.

"When she started out she was a 1 500m athlete, but then we moved her down to 400m and now she is also performing at 200m, so all these things just take time, but we are very excited about the future of these two girls," he added.

Botha said they had been invited to more international events in Europe, but that they were still considering their options.

"We still have two races on our horizon and I think we will lean towards a race in Sweden, but we must still make a final decision, because we want to see which race will give them the best exposure. There are also other possibilities where one of them will run in Marseille, France and another in Spain, but it's not finalised yet," he said.

While their performances in Prague have increased their international stature, they are still a bit off the world's best times this year.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas has set the fastest time of 22,03, while she is followed by five more Americans. Favour Ofili of Nigeria is seventh overall and the fastest African with a time of 22,30 seconds, while the second African, Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, is 19th overall with a time of 22,59.

Gina Bass is the third-ranked African and 21st in the world with a time of 22,62, while Mboma has now moved up to 26th position, and Masilingi to 29th position.

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