Johanna Benson off to ScotlandBy: HELGE SCHUTZ
NAMIBIA’S Paralympic star Johanna Benson left for Glasgow, Scotland, yesterday to participate in a European indoor athletics event where she will compete over 60m for the first time.
Following her heroics at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, where she won a gold and a silver medal, Benson received an invitation from the IAAF to participate in the event.
Letu Hamhola, who has helped coach Benson over the past two weeks, said the Scotland Indoor Grand Prix was a new event created by the IAAF for disabled athletes, which will hopefully grow into a series of events over the next few months.
“This is an exciting period for Paralympics sport because they are planning to introduce eight more Grand Prix. If Johanna does well, she will be able to make a living from athletics. The first three athletes in Scotland will receive 3 000, 2 000 and 1 000 pounds respectively,” he said.
Hamhola said Benson was ready and looking forward to the challenge.
“Our training went well and it was a joy to work with Johanna. The 60m is a new event for her, so we worked on her reaction speed. She always gives 100 percent and is excited about the challenge,” Hamhola added.
Since the 60m has not been raced before, the winner will automatically set a new world record, while Benson, as the only African participant, will set a new Namibian and African record, Hamhola added.
Benson said her preparation had gone well and that she was excited about the challenge.
“I’m just happy to be able to compete against the people that I ran against at the Paralympic Games. The 60m is a very short distance but I will do my best,” she said.
“I’ve been working on my speed, I’m in good shape and I think I can win,” she added.
Benson will be accompanied by her coach, Michael Hamukwaya, and medic Donatha Gawanas.
Hamukwaya said he could not leave from work to assist Benson over the past week and that Hamhola had agreed to help out with her training.
“Letu took over her training because I could not get off from work. But it was a good experience for Johanna – we have worked like this before and are just helping each other,” he said.