Perseverance, precision and determination came to play at the just-ended Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia where Namibia bagged two gold medals.
With just two days left for the competition to conclude, Namibia was on a medal drought after all its athletes lost out on the podium.
The remaining hope was on boxer Jonas Junias Jonas who had then qualified for the finals 64kg light welterweight category and veteran marathon runner Helalia Johannes.
From the malevolent events of his 2016 Rio Olympic misfortunes, Jonas was able to convinciningly dust himself off and prove to the world that he is out of this world by winning Namibia’s first gold in the competition this time.
The following day, 37-year old Johannes out-paced her opponents to claim Namibia’s second gold medal.
The veteran athlete has been on an international medal drought for years and has over the years been criticized for not coming close to the podium. This was her moment.
Her best run prior to this commonwealth came at London 2012 when she ran a Namibian record of 2:26:09, she also came fifth in the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Johannes follows in the foot steps of her partner, former boxer Japhet Uutoni who won a gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. A jubilant Johannes this week expressed her gratitude to her supporters and coaches who she says believed in her regardless of the delayed international success.
“One never knows when their day will come. Somewhere during the race I felt it was my time and with the grace of God, I had the strength to keep pushing. I pushed and never stopped until I crossed that line,” said a triumphant Johannes.
Johannes has been under the scope of scrutiny at home with many sport fanatics saying the veteran was becoming too old to bring home any medal.
“This medal means a lot for me and I can only thank God for the strength. People at home were complaining that I am old.
Today I got rewarded for my investment and I am very happy,” she said.
Asked whether this was her last appearance on the road, she downplayed the idea of quitting saying, “in marathon, you become stronger as you get older so there is no quitting for me.”
For Jonas, he said it was a performance of revenge after the ordeal he faced in Brazil during the recent Olympics.
Jonas, the country’s 2016 Olympic flag-bearer was arrested in Brazil during the last Olympic Games for alleged sexual assault. He fought his fights coming out of the Rio’s holding cell to succumb to a loss.
“I started seven months back when I qualified for the games, I did this from 2016 where I felt I was totally robbed and whenever I start thinking about it my tears begin to run. But then God has given me the strength and I have done it again,” said Jonas who had high praises for his coaching team.
“I should say I was never alone. I received so much motivation on social media from people I don’t even know. They believed in me and this kept me pushing to count every win.
This time around I used their techniques against themselves. It was only the first fight where I boxed how I would normally fight. The following fights, I watched closely how they do it and that is what I did. So I used their own styles and got the wins.”
“This was definitely revenge for 2016. The medal means a lot, it is victory for the country and it means I’m one of the best in the world. So I’m highly motivated,” said the champion who added that he is yet to consult as to whether to turn professional or not.
The athletes received a warm welcome, pulling crowds from the Namibia Defense Force where Johannes works, the boxing fraternity and general public that joined family members of the Commonwealth team.
A team of top officials from the Sport, Youth and National Services ministry came out in numbers to show their support. At the welcoming ceremony, Sports Minister Erastus Uutoni praised the entire team for making the country proud.
“You have shaken up most of the youth groupings. You have made us a proud nation. When you were there, we were following and supporting from the sides,” he said.
Of the 29 Namibian athletes, none of them backed out of any competition, Uutoni praised. Namibia was ranked 19th out of 49 African countries. The government had committed N$4 million towards the success of the competition to which the minister called on the business community to support sport. The next competition will be the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. At the moment, it is only Johannes and Jonas that have qualified for this event.
Uutoni called for the decentralization of sports codes saying “there is talent in the regions that need molding.”
He added: “We must mobilize and make sure that every region is represented. Some of the sport codes are hardly found in some regions. I do not only want us to confine ourselves to Swakopmund and Windhoek. Let us go to some regions. Similarly, we also need our own coaches so let us train them,” said Uutoni.
Para champ Ananias Shikongo who made history at the last Olympic Games missed out on victory.
The competition organisers received complaints over the categorisation of the para-athletes. Ananias was wrongly placed in the T12 100m and was the only fully blind athlete in this category but still came fourth.
Namibia has now participated at seven Commonwealth Games since 1994. During these participations, Namibia was able to collect five golds, four silvers and 11 bronze medals.