FORMER Namibia Sports Woman of The Year and one of Southern Africa’s fastest female marathon runners, Helaria Johannes, has finally given in to the pressure of amateur athletics and is now a Namibia Defense Forces (NDF) recruit, currently in training at Osona Base near Okahandja.
The 27-year-old, who represented Namibia at the Beijing Olympic Games and is a former Two Oceans (Cape Town and Southern Africa’s toughest road race) champion, has six months left of her nine-month defense force training exercise. NDF Commander of Recruit Training, Colonel Simon Ndemwimba confirmed Jahannes’ presence at Osona Base and said that she was recruited because of her natural sporting talent, “as there were reports that she often struggled to support herself financially as she was not employed.”
Ndemwimba however said the athlete would not be allowed to attend any competitions during this period but would join the athletics division of the NDF once she graduates. “She will become a junior officer. The only special treatment we have given her is recruiting her,” he said.
As such, Johannes was indentified as a notable absentee at this year’s 42kilometre Mumbai Marathon, at which 33,000 participants were in action. Johannes finished in the top ten at the Mumbai Marathon two years ago, and was the only Southern African to feature in the top ten bracket of that race.
Kenya’s Kenneth Mugara won this year’s race, setting a new course record of 2hours, 11minutes and 51 seconds. Between 2005 and 2008, Johannes had the last laugh in France, Seoul-South Korea, and Pune-India among other races, establishing a strong fan base in the process. However, she often bemoaned her lack of guidance as she never had a trainer, a manager, a physiotherapist or any other resources in her career.
Noting Johannes’ plight, the Sports Ministry recently devised a financial plan to specially assist individual athletes like Johannes, who single-handedly represented the country. Ministry officials reportedly remain unaware that Johannes is now in the army.