Dream comes true for BensonsBy: ADAM HARTMAN at WALVIS BAY
PAGES from yesterday’s newspapers carrying the news of Namibia’s Paralympic ‘golden girl’, Johanna Benson, who won gold in the women’s T37 200 final on Wednesday night, were plastered everywhere in her family’s home in Walvis Bay.
There were even pages displaying her holding the Namibian flag pasted on the family car’s windows.
The Benson family are thrilled by Johanna’s performance and how she made them and the country proud.
“I am not sorry that God gave me a handicapped child. She is our pride, and the pride of our nation,” Johanna’s mother, Baby Benson, told The Namibian.
According to her, Johanna sent an SMS from London just before the final in which she said she would make Namibia proud and bring back gold.
“We all were glued to the television at my brother’s house. It was tense, but I know that she would win because God told me so in scripture,” said Mrs Benson.
Johanna also won a silver medal in the 100 metres on Sunday.
According to Mrs Benson, five months after Johanna was born in 1990, they noticed that the right side of her body was weaker. They were told by doctors in Windhoek that she would be permanently affected.
“They assured us that we could get professional physiotherapy, but nothing ever happened. I just made sure to massage her often and rub her with cream,” said Mrs Benson.
Johanna was also “slower” than normal academically, but she still attended public schools in Walvis Bay – primary and secondary.
“She always loved running, but I would discourage her when she was still small because I was afraid she would hurt herself. However, when she came to Kuisebmond Secondary School, she decided to run anyway, and this is when everyone saw her talent,” said her mother.
The whole Benson family are athletes, with her uncle, Duban Benson, being a former Brave Warriors striker in the 1990s, and her mother also a former sprinter.
According to Mrs Benson, it was the encouragement from everyone around her daughter; the school, coaches and her family, and “the grace of God” that helped her excel.
“She would even be able to run away from many normal people,” said Duban Benson.
“After a school athletics event she would come and ask me how she did, and I told her she was great, but also encouraged her to participate in events suited for the handicapped. From here she got a lot of help and experience,” he said.
Johanna has many medals to show for her achievements – mostly gold. She is the first Namibian ever to bring back an Olympic gold medal. Legendary Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks won four silver medals at two Olympic Games – Barcelona and Atlanta.
Johanna, who is described as a very quiet, emotionally sensitive young woman who loves reading, always dreamt of going to the Olympics.
“She fulfilled her dream with flying colours,” said her mother.
Her family will be eagerly waiting at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on Tuesday to welcome back their golden girl.