Athletics Namibia raises the bar as elite athletes battle in Windhoek

Namibia's Hitjiverue Kaanjuka in action/ Photo: Namibia Sport

Athletics fans can look forward to top class action on Saturday when the second leg of the Bank Windhoek Grand Prix Series takes place at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium.

According to a press release issued by Athletics Namibia, a record number of athletes have entered for the event, while AN has also increased its prize money, which should ensure some exciting showdowns between Namibia’s top athletes.

“A total of 284 athletes have entered the competition, and following the success of the first leg in Oshakati, Athletics Namibia has decided to increase the prize money from N$45 000 to N$61 700,” the statement read.

A total of 33 events will be held, while pole vaulting will also be introduced for the first time. According to AN president Frank Fredericks, the large number of entries augured well for the revival of athletics.

“The significant increase of participants in the Bank Windhoek Grand Prix is very encouraging and shows that we are on track in reviving athletics in the country. The Grand Prix series will also be a good opportunity for our athletes to qualify for the IAAF World Championships that will take place in Moscow later this year,” he said.

One of the highlights should be in the women’s 200m where the national champion and Namibia’s Most Improved Sportswoman of the Year, Globine Mayova will come up against her good friend and training mate Tjipekapora Herunga.

Both athletes were in great form last year, continuously pushing each other to better performances, with Mayova eventually breaking Herunga’s national record with a time of 23,39 seconds at the South African Yellow Pages series in Pretoria.

Herunga, for her part, broke her own national 400m record with a new time of 51,24 seconds in Pretoria, but according to her coach Letu Hamhola, she will concentrate on building up her speed and will only compete in the 100m and 200m events on Saturday.

Herunga did not compete in the first leg of the Bank Windhoek Grand Prix Series in Oshakati in December, and in her absence, Mayova was a comfortable winner in the 200m in a time of 24,46 seconds.

Most of Namibia’s other top athletes like Hitjiverue Kaanjuka, Frank Puriza, Basilius Karupu, Daniel Nghipandulwa and Charlene Engelbrecht will be in action on Saturday. The only absentees at this stage are sprinters Jesse Urikhob and Philippus Paulus who are both nursing minor injuries.

Kaanjuka, the defending 100m and 200m national champion suffered a surprise defeat to Karupu in the 200m in Oshakati, and will be out to make amends. On that occasion, Karupu took the gold medal with a time of 21,72, while Kaanjuka came second in 21,94.

Other athletes who are expected to make an impact include Nghipandulwa, who won both the 800m and 1 500m in Oshakati; Haitope, who won the 1 500m and 3 000m in Oshakati; and Charlene Engelbrecht, who set a new national record of 48,08m at the Zone Six Youth Games in Lusaka, Zambia in December.

Athletics coach Letu Hamhola said the athletes had all trained hard during the festive season and were aiming to peak for the National Athletics Championships in February.

“Our most immediate aim is to get the athletes in top shape for the National Championships in February. Depending on their results, we will where they can participate abroad,” he said.

Over the past few years Namibia’s top athletes have participated in the South African Yellow Pages Series under Hamhola and Agnes Samaria’s Vision 2016 programme, but Yellow Pages has since then withdrawn as the sponsor for the series.

According to Hamhola, it should however not change matters much.

“The only change is that Yellow Pages has withdrawn as the title sponsor for the whole series, but most of the individual events should continue and will be organised by the provincial unions,” he said.

“In fact, there should even be more meetings, because most of the provinces have increased their number of meetings, while they will also hold league meetings this year,” he added.

Tomorrow’s programme will start at 09h00 while the entrance will be free of charge.

There will also be a 60m challenge for both retired and active male athletes where N$2 000 will be up for grabs for the winner. All sport enthusiasts, media houses, companies and the general public are welcome to enter the 60m challenge at a fee of N$50.

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