Achiever award revivedBy: SHEEFENI NIKODEMUS
JOHANNA Benson is likely to get a special accolade on Friday after the MTC/NSC Namibia Sport Awards organisers were forced to revive the Sport Achiever of the Year prize.
Deputy Sport Minister Pohamba Shifeta told The Namibian yesterday that he had instructed the national awards’ organisers to include the category which is reserved for the country’s most outstanding athlete and in the process sparing the bungling officials considerable embarrassment.
Benson’s exclusion from the mainstream Sportswoman of the Year category sparked outrage from her supporters and sport administrators alike, who felt she deserved more than nomination for the Disabled Sportswoman of the Year award.
Benson made history by winning Namibia’s first gold medal at an Olympic event at the London Paralympic Games in August. She also bagged a silver in the 100m T37 to go with the 200m first prize at the competition.
“I asked the Director of Sport and the Sport Commission to add that category. I told them we cannot go ahead like this as this would be seen as discriminating against certain athletes,” said Shifeta.
“This (Sport Achiever) category is open to all athletes. It has always been there in oder for us to honour the top performing athlete in the entire country. But then it disappeared. I don’t know why or when.”
Paulus ‘The Hitman’ Moses was the last to hold the Sport Achiever of the Year award, after his third successive triumph in 2007.
Benson is now expected to land that title, while she is also the favourite to win the Disabled Sportswoman of the Year award.
Member of Parliament and Namibia National Olympic Committee president Agnes Tjongarero used last week’s Disability Sport Awards as platform to vent her frustration over the Benson issue.
She argued that Benson’s unparalleled exploits in London should automatically make her the obvious choice for the Sportswoman of the Year award – which is being contested by Iroleen von Witzenberg Page, Helalia Johannes, Bonita Bredenhann, Tjipe Herunga, Gaby Ahrens and Beata Naigambo.
“Does it make sense to you? You are the only one with a gold medal from the Olympics but you are not nominated. Is that logical?” Tjongarero said.
“Johanna Benson not included in Sportswoman of the Year is ridiculous! What on earth were they thinking?” popular musician The Dogg posted on Twitter.
BEE businessman and comedian Lazarus Jacobs also took to Twitter to add: “Johanna Benson was not nominated for the Sportswoman of the Year award. Why?’Cause she didn’t beat Usain Bolt or what? Give me a break!”
NNOC member and sport administrator Ndeulipula Hamutumwa threatened to boycott the awards ceremony and said he was “shocked and dismayed” by the event’s organisers.
He branded the issue as a breach of the “Constitution of the Republic of Namibia and Namibia Sport Act of 2003”.
Shifeta added that while Benson is arguably the standout female athlete in the country at the moment, she could not compete in categories reserved for able-bodied athletes as this in itself was discriminatory.
He hinted at a possible alteration of the Sport Awards format and legislation in future editions.
“Able-bodied athletes cannot compete in disability awards. There are things which we must look at in order to make the event fair for everyone. But when it comes to the top achiever’s prize, there is no distinction in sporting ability,” Shifeta said.