Benson wins silver for NamibiaBy: HELGE SCHUTZ
JOHANNA Benson gave a great performance to win a silver medal in the Women’s T37 100m final at the Paralympic Games on Sunday evening. She got off to a great start in Lane 1, shooting out of her blocks to take the lead and by the halfway stage was well ahead of the rest of the field.
Mandy Francois-Elie of France, running next to her in Lane 2, started to close the gap and with about 10m to go she passed Benson to take the gold medal in 14,08 seconds.
A tiring Benson managed to hold on for second place to win the silver medal in 14,23 while Neda Bahi of Tunisia came third in 14,36.
It was a great performance by Benson, who set a new personal best time and broke her own African record of 14,63 seconds that she set in her first-round heat.
It was Namibia’s first silver medal at the Paralympic Games, following the bronze medal that Reginald Benade won in shot put at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. With the medal Benson underlined her reputation as one of Namibia’s most successful athletes on the international stage. She won a bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.
Benson’s team mates and officials from Team Namibia were elated with her victory and the tears flowed freely.
“Johanna is over the moon. Team Namibia are overwhelmed, all smiles, the coaches are all with tears of joy,” said one of the officials of Team Namibia, Memory Kahlari.
“The medic, Donatha Gawanas, worked hard to ensure that the athletes are fit, and Deputy Minister Pohamba Shifeta is a proud man, as he is all smiles,” she added.
In the first-round heats, Benson only managed to come fourth in 14,63 and just made it to the final with the seventh fastest time.
On Friday, Benson competed in the F37/38 Women’s Long Jump where she came 10th with a distance of 3,71m.
The president of Disability Sport in Namibia, Charles Nyambe, congratulated Benson as well as Shifeta, whom he said had played a big role in her success.
“During the preliminary round she was tactical as she conserved her energy to finish fourth. Her performance was enhanced and encouraged by an outstanding team of officials and the support of the Deputy Minister who visited the village to encourage the athletes. He spoke to them to maintain a positive attitude, stay focused and avoid mingling with opponents,” he said.
“The athletes were encouraged to see how caring we were and the room was so electrified after the meeting,” he added.