Namibia: Mboma, Masilingi Set for Swakop Showdown

CHRISTINE Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi will be the star attractions when the first leg of Athletics Namibia's Grand Prix series takes place in Swakopmund on Saturday.

The two athletes last week assisted with coaching at the Quinton Steele Botes Athletics Training Camp in Windhoek, where their coach Henk Botha said they will both compete in the 100m.

"We have been working hard on our off-season training programme - there's a long and exciting season lying ahead and we are going to try some new things. We will have the girls in Swakop on the 15th of January doing the 100m, just to see where they are as far as their speed is concerned," he said.

Botha, however, added that Mboma will focus on the 200m for the rest of the season.

"Obviously Beatrice will do the 100m throughout the season, and maybe Christine as well, but at this stage we are only concentrating on the 200m for Christine. We have the big season ahead which includes the Diamond League, the African Champs, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships, so it's going to be a long and a hard one," he said.

Mboma, meanwhile, said she was determined to maintain her high standards after bursting onto the international scene last year with some brilliant performances. .

Ï'm really proud of my achievements, but I still have to continue with what I started last year. I'll be happy if I can improve my personal best times," she said, adding that her sudden fame had made her more focussed.

"I'd say that it changed me a lot, and made me more focussed to concentrate on my career."

It will be the first time that Mboma will compete over the 100m, and as such, Masilingi should start as the favourite after posting several impressive times at the World Junior Championships in Nairobi last year.

In her first round heat on 18 August she smashed her national 100m record of 11,38 seconds with a time of 11,20, while she posted equally impressive times of 11,35 in the semifinals and 11,39 in the final, where she won the silver medal behind Tina Clayton of Jamaica who won gold in 11,09.

Mboma ran a storming 9,86 seconds final leg during the women's 4x100m relay event at the World Junior Championships to lead Namibia to the silver medal in a new national record time of 43,76 seconds.

However, she is still to post an official time from the start over the distance individually. The showdown against her training partner is keenly anticipated.

Unam's upcoming sprinters, Ndawana Haittembu and Hanganeni Fikunawa will also be in action, but with most athletes still at the start of their training programmes and conditions at Swakop not conducive to sprints, fast times will be unlikely.

Amongst the men, regular contenders like Even Tjiuju, Gilbert Hainuca and Sandro Diergaardt should start amongst the favourites, while upcoming youngsters like Elvis Gaseb and Hatago Murere could also make their mark.

The men's 400m should also be an interesting event with last year's national champion, Mahmoud Bock expected to receive a tough challenge from the upcoming youngster Andre Retief.

In the men's 1 500m national champion David Dam of Omaruru can expect stiff competition from Tomas Shigwedha and Tangeni Sakaria of Namibia Correctional Services, as well as Unam's upcoming athlete Veino Ashuulu.

The Swakop event will just have a selected number of track events on display with only the 100m sprint, the 400m and 1 500m for both men and women, as well as the 3 000m for women and 5 000m for men, and the 100m hurdles for women and 110m hurdles for men.

The field events will consist of the shot put, long jump and javelin for men, as well as the triple jump for women.

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