CHRISTINE Mboma missed out on the Female Rising Star award at World Athletics’ annual awards ceremony on Tuesday night, but her coach Henk Botha was not too perturbed.
The American middle distance athlete Athing Mu, who won the 800m gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics as well as the 4x400m relay gold medal, won the award, and Botha said that Mu was a worthy winner.
“She’s a very worthy candidate and for us it’s just a great honour to have been nominated for the award. It’s not the end of the world to not have won the award, its nice to have received that recognition, and now we will just work harder for next time,” he said.
“I don’t know what criteria they used, so I can’t really say, but there’s an argument for Christine in that she broke a world record, she won the Diamond League and went under 22 seconds for the 200m on five occasions. That’s an exceptional achievement if one considers that the Female Athlete of the Year, Elaine Thompson-Herah has also done it five times, but over her whole career. But there’s no denying that Athing Mu is a world class athlete, who won two gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics,” he added.
Mboma had a stellar season after bursting onto the international scene with some exceptional performances over 200m on the European Summer circuit.
In June she won two international events in Prague and Madrid, setting a new a Namibian record of 22,67 seconds in the former, but that was just a taste of what was to come at the Tokyo Olympic Games in August.
She won her first round heat in a new national and u20 world record time of 22,11, and once again lowered both records with a time of 21,97 in the semifinals.
In the final she once again lowered both records with a time of 21,81 seconds, to finish second behind Thompson-Herah and win Namibia’s first medal at the Olympic Games since Frank Fredericks 25 years ago in Atalanta.
That was her only defeat of the season and since then she once again lowered her national and u20 world records on two occasions.
At the end of August she won the gold medal at the World u20 Championships in Nairobi in 21,84, while she once again lowered that mark to 21,78 in winning the Diamond League final in Zurich in September.
In total, Mboma recorded five sub-22 second performances over 200m, while she has now also set the six fastest u20 times in history.
Besides that, Mboma also broke the u20 400m world record with a phenomenal time of 48,54 seconds in Poland at the end of June, but World Athletics did not ratify it and later banned Mboma and compatriot Beatrice Masilingi from competing in the 400m due to elevated testosterone levels.
World Athletics, however, recently ratified her 200m u20 world record of 21,78 seconds and Botha said they would for the time being just focus on the shorter sprints.
“We are following the developments of Caster Semenya with interest, who is challenging her ban at the European Court of Human Rights, but for now we will just focus on the sprints. We will also enter Christine for the 100m in some local events next year and see how it goes before she competes in Europe,” he said.
Botha said that Mboma and Masilingi had already started pre-season training in preparation for a jam-packed athletics season in 2022.
“We plan to compete in some local events in April and then start with our international programme in May. There will be a very full calendar next year including the World Championships in Oregon, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Diamond League in Europe. Then there’s also the African Championships in Mauritius and the World Junior Championships, but some of these dates will clash so I doubt if we will make them all,” he said.
Botha praised Mboma and Masilingi for their level-headedness and remaining down to earth during an exceptional year of fame and fortune.
Ït’s been an incredible year during which they were thrust into the international limelight, but fame has not changed them and they are still the same beautiful girls that I know.
Ï am over the moon with their performances this year – Christine was ranked first in the world by World Athletics over 200m and Beatrice ninth – that’s a great achievement and I don’t think that a small country like Namibia has ever managed to achieve this before,” he said.
Botha admitted that they had been under a lot of pressure, but said they would take it on.
“I must say, there has been quite a lot of pressure on us and there have been very high and at times unreasonable expectations of us, but I suppose it comes with the territory and we will take it on,” he said.