The fairytale athletics story of one of Namibia’s most recognisable long distance female runners, one Beata Naigambo, is a mixture of happiness, agony, bad luck, defeats, victories including an astonishing victory on foreign land that paved the way for a ticket to the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Arguably the country’s most accomplished female athlete of her generation, Beata’s remarkable longevity in the sport of road running defies her advanced age and is confirmation of the old adage that nothing beats experience and perseverance.
The gorgeous lass whose spotless beautiful looks can be easily mistaken for a beauty pageant contestant, has been there and seen it all.
Beata has represented her native land with a certain measure of distinction in almost all the august international gatherings and locally won several accolades.
The incumbent Sports Woman of Year Award recipient is still going strong and has no intentions of packing her running shoes away, at least not for now.
In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sports feature Tales of the Legends, New Era Sports will divert a bit from our customary profile on footballers as we bring the untold sports journey of Beata Naigambo to our esteemed readers.
Carlos “CK” Kambaekwa
Windhoek-Born Beata Naigambo on the 11 March 1980 at the small village enclave of Oligati in the vast Ohangwena region holed up in the northern part of Namibia – young Beata was destined for the bigger stage at an early age.
She rose to prominence at the age of seventeen (17) while still attending school at the A Shipena Secondary School on the outskirts of Katutura – Namibia’s largest residential area in 1997.
Surprisingly, her trusted training partner was none other than fellow renowned marathoner, Ruben “Tix” Indongo, elder brother of current Namibian world boxing champion Julies “Blue Machine” Indongo.
The pair would always train together after school under the supervision and guidance of Glen McNally, a well-respected schoolteacher at the A Shipena secondary school.
After some impressive performances in both the middle and long-distance road races, the late Uncle Abed took the gorgeous soft spoken lass to the Sunshine Athletics Club where he coached her showing her the ropes of modern road running.
However, at the beginning of 1998, she was shifted under the wing of revered athletics mentor Will Gernemann, a German national sent to Namibia by the German government as part of a bilateral agreement.
It was indeed under Gernemann’s guidance that young Beata started to flourish in local races. This period saw her send two records tumbling in the junior division in 1998.
Her time of 37.2-4 seconds in the 10,000-meter race at the prestigious Africa Junior Athletics Championship in Tunis, Tunisia, was a new Namibian record. She emulated that feat when she effortlessly tumbled the old record in the shorter 5,000-meter distance on home soil (Windhoek) – months later.
Sadly, Gernemann’s contract in Namibia came to an unfortunate and ill-timed end as they posted the German expert to Chile, South America in 1999.
“It was unfortunate that Willy had to leave, because I’m a great deal indebted to him since he was the one who pushed me to break those records.
“In fact, all the affected athletes pleaded with the authorities to have his contract extended but our government would have none of that,” relates Beata with a twinkle of disappointment swelling in her eyes.
In the meantime, Beata and her long-time training partner and rival Elizabeth Moghudhi would conduct their training sessions together with their muscular male counterparts. This particular training routine compelled the pair to become much stronger and more competitive.
By the turn of the century in 2000, Beata started to dominate local races whilst she also made her presence felt in regional and continental competitions.
She went onto establish herself as one of the most sought after long distance female athletes and occasionally participated internationally at august events such as the world championships and various high profile invitational meetings.
In 2003, Beata temporarily relocated to neighbouring South Africa where she trained while competing fiercely in the domestic provincial competitions in the rainbow nation.
On the local front, she won countless races including victories in the popular annual Lucky Star coastal marathon setting a personal best of 2 hours 4 minutes and 5 seconds.
She also finished in 9th place overall at the prestigious Commonwealth Games in greater Manchester, England, UK in 2002 before claiming a gold medal in the Peninsula Marathon in South Africa the following year clocking an astonishing time of 77-minutes. Amongst her many accolades, the undisputed queen of local road running made a habit of reaching the podium at the slightest provocation.
She won a silver medal at the Phalaborwa half-marathon (21-kilometres) South Africa in 2003 breaking the tape in 3rd place with a time of 77.07-5 seconds.
She went onto represent her native land in almost all the major international events such as the All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia 2006, Beijing Olympics in China (2008), London Olympics England (2012) and finally the Rio Olympics, Brazil (2016).
Beata surprised friend and foe alike when she smashed a strong field of internationally acclaimed long-distance runners to claim a sacred gold medal at the prestigious World Championships, which served as an Olympic qualifier in Valencia, Spain – thus booking her ticket to Brazil for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In addition to her impressive resume, Naigambo won a gold medal at the Hamburg marathon in a time of 2 hours 27 minutes and 2-8 seconds in 2015.
At the fairly advanced age of 36, the competitive Beata is still going strong and is certainly maturing with age like some properly fermented good old wine and says she has no intention of quitting road running until such time her body tells her otherwise.
However, she has also had her fair share of disappointments, such as not finishing the race during the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia due to fatigue and suffering the same fate at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China.