Namibia is celebrating after female paralympic sprinter Johanna Benson won gold in the Women’s T37 200 metres final in London on Wednesday night – marking the first Olympic gold for the country after a remarkable career. Johanna had also picked up a silver medal earlier in the week for coming in second in the women’s T37 100m race.
In a particularly touching symbol, Namibia’s previous silver medal running winner, Frankie Fredericks, presented her with her gold medal. Fredericks, who won four silver medals for Namibia in the 1992 and 1996 Games, is now an IOC member. He joined Games chief Lord Sebastian Coe to plant the final piece of turf in the main stadium last year and was guest of honour at the launch of our Olympic activities last year in Windhoek, so it was wonderful to see these key figures come together at this historic time for Namibian sport.
New UK Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds was able to personally congratulate Namibia’s Paralympic team and visiting Deputy Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Hon Pohamba Shifeta, during a special tour of the GREAT Pavilion at the Foreign Office in London yesterday.
Speaking at the event, Mr Simmonds said: “I was delighted to welcome Hon Pohamba Shifeta and his athletes to London and the Paralympics Games. Namibians are passionate about their sport and were excited about the medal chances for their athletes competing in London. Before the team departed I am told that President Pohamba urged his athletes to make the country proud. With this in mind I am delighted that the team secured Namibia’s first ever Paralympic gold medal in the women’s 200m. The passion, dedication and accomplishments of all Paralympians this summer will, I am sure, inspire the next generation of young people from around the world to work hard and achieve the best they possibly can in their chosen fields.” I would like to echo his words and hearty congratulations – not just to Johanna – but to all the terrific young Namibian sportsmen and women that took part in the London 2012 Games.
It has been a truly fantastic summer in the UK for all of us involved with the Games, and as the Paralympic Games draw to a close, we can reflect on some iconic moments in Olympic history, including: Usain Bolt’s “double triple” – retaining his 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles; Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian ever with 22 medals (18 gold); David Rudisha becoming the first athlete to run the 800m inside 1m 41s; and Mo Farah winning double Olympic gold at his home Games in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
The London 2012 Games has seen record-breaking numbers of spectators with over 7.4 million people visiting venues during the Olympic Games and 2.5 million during the Paralympics, making them the first Paralympic Games ever to sell out.
We’ve had record numbers of TV viewers, with up to a billion people watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony alone and the strongest Paralympic Games broadcast coverage ever received, with hundreds of hours of Paralympic sport broadcast around the world. We were delighted to welcome more than 130 Heads of State and Government and more than 40,000 Games Family Members to the UK. It was great that Namibia was a part of this and will be bringing at least two medals home. I look forward to catching up with all the athletes and sports officials on their return and hearing more about their London 2012 experiences. A very hearty well done in advance!