Namibia: Masilingi Blazes to Victory

BEATRICE Masilingi kept Namibia's flag flying high with another brilliant performance at the Lucerne Athletics Meeting in Switzerland on Tuesday night.

Competing in the women's 200m, Masilingi led from start to finish to win the race in a new personal best time of 22,67 seconds, which also equalled Christine Mboma's national record that she set in Prague three weeks earlier.

Masilingi got off to a hesitant start due to the wet conditions, but soon took the lead. By the half way mark going into the home straight she held a slight lead over Alexandra Burghardt of Germany, but with her arms pumping powerfully, she gradually pulled away to complete an impressive victory.

Burghardt came second, nearly half a second behind in 23,16, while another German athlete, Lisa Marie Kwayie came third in 23,28.

Masilingi's trainer Henk Botha, who is currently in Bydgoszcz, Poland where Mboma was due to compete last night, said they were very pleased with Masilingi's performance, but that her start was not the best.

"We are very happy with Beatrice's result last night in Lucerne. We worked on her bend running and acceleration towards the end and she did that perfectly. However, she didn't have her usual fast start, but we must understand that it was slippery and wet. She told me afterwards that she was afraid that she was going to slip, so it's understandable that she didn't have a perfect start, but she is also building up experience for the future by running in conditions like this," he said.

"You can never predict how the conditions are going to be - here in Poland we had a beautiful sunny day yesterday, but today it is cloudy and overcast and there's a possibility of rain tonight while the meeting will take place. So these are the conditions that you need to know about if you want to run in Europe," he added.

The two Namibians have lit up the European athletics circuit with some superb performances over the past three weeks.

On 7 June, Mboma won the 200m at a meet in the Czech Republic capital, Prague, in a national record of 22,67, with Masilingi coming third in 22,82.

Two weeks later they continued their winning ways with Mboma winning the 200m in Madrid in 22,79 seconds, while Masilingi won the 400m in Chorzow, Poland in 49,88.

Masilingi has twice already posted faster times in the 200m, but they did not count since the wind was too strong. On 29 May she won an event in Pretoria in 22,28 seconds and then three weeks later on 18 June won the 200m at the Namibia National Championships in 22,38.

Masilingi has now, however, matched Mboma's national record time of 22,67 and on Sunday will have another opportunity to improve upon that when she competes against a star-studded field at the Stockholm Diamond League.

Botha yesterday confirmed the entry list which includes some of the world's fastest 200m athletes this year like ShaÇarri Richardson and Morolake Akinosun of the United States, and Shericka Jackson of Jamaica.

Jackson set the world's third fastest time of 21,82 seconds in Eugene, Oregon four days ago, while Richardson set the 10th fastest time of 22,11 seconds in April, and Akinosun the 17th fastest time of 22,44 five days ago.

Masilingi and Mboma's 22,67 is only the joint 32nd fastest time in the world this year, but with a few more meets and the Olympics lying ahead, it is highly likely that they will still go faster.

An interesting fact of Masilingi's race in Lucerne was that the two favourites, Dafne Schippers of The Netherlands and Marie Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast both pulled out shortly before the start.

Ta Lou had earlier won the 100m in 11,09 seconds, with Schippers coming fourth in 11,41, but although they had been entered for the 200m, they failed to appear at the starting line.

With the Olympics just around the corner, it seems as if the mind games have already started.

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