Benson joins Laureus’ glitteratiBy: HELGE SCHUTZ
NAMIBIA’S Paralympic star Johanna Benson leaves for Rio de Janeiro today to take her place among the glittering collection of stars due to attend this year’s Laureus World Sports Awards which take place in the Brazilian city on Monday evening.
Benson was selected for the prestigious awards after she made history on September 5 last year to win Namibia’s first-ever gold medal at the Paralympic Games.
She was one of the stars at the event, winning the T37 200m in a new African record and personal best time of 29,26 seconds, while she also won silver in the 100m in another African record of 14,23 seconds.
Her performances inspired the Namibian nation and on her return she received a hero’s welcome and several gifts including a brand new house.
However, Benson faces great competition in the disability sport category.
Also nominated for the award are Patrick Anderson of Canada, Daniel de Faria Dias of Brazil, Alan Fonteles Oliviera of Brazil, David Weir of Great Britain and Alex Zanardi of Italy.
They all excelled at the London Paralympic Games, setting some remarkable milestones.
Anderson came out of retirement to inspire the Canadian team to a gold medal in the wheelchair basketball competition.
Daniel de Faria Dias won an incredible six Paralympic gold medals in swimming, all in new world record times.
Alan Fonteles Oliviera beat the favourite Oscar Pistorius to win gold in the T44 200m final at the Paralympic Games.
The former Formula One Grand Prix racer, Alex Zanardi won two gold medals and a silver in Para Cycling, at his first Paralympic Games.
How Benson will compare against these athletes remains to be seen, but just to be among the finalists is already a great achievement, which will give further exposure to Namibia on the world stage.
Benson will be rubbing shoulders with the planet’s leading sport stars best at an event dubbed the Oscars of the sporting world.
The world’s best sportsmen and women will be competing in a total of seven categories, namely Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, Breakthrough and Comeback of the Year, Sportsperson with a Disability of the Year, Team of the Year and the Action Sportsperson of the Year.
Superstars Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Lionel Messi will be amongst the favourites in the Sportsman competition, while Allyson Felix, Jessica Ennis and Serena Williams will be favoured in the Sportswoman category.
The Breakthrough of the Year includes British tennis player Andy Murray, Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen and Brazilian football star Neymar, while the Comeback of the Year includes South African golfer Ernie Els, 400m hurdler Felix Sanchez from the Dominican Republic and the European Ryder Cup golf team.
The Team of the Year includes Spain’s football team, the European Ryder Cup team and the USA men’s basketball team, while the Action Sportsperson of the Year includes Austrian Felix Baumgartner who became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound.
Each category winner will receive a Laureus statuette made of solid silver with a gold base.