Hundreds of adoring fans, clad in T-shirts hailing their hero’s achievements, swarmed Namibia’s airport yesterday, in anticipation for the arrival of Namibia’s hero, Johanna Benson.
Not only that, but it is due to her determination, strength and sheer skill, that Namibia’s national anthem was for the first time in Olympic or Paralympic history, heard at the stadium and across the world to millions of viewers.
When she crossed that finish line at the Paralympic stadium in London to grab the gold medal from under the noses of her competitors Johanna Benson’s life changed.
And at her arrival at Hosea Kutako International Airport yesterday afternoon, that was made clear as day.
Before she descended the steps of the airplane, Johanna’s proud mother Adelaide Benson ascended to greet her daughter in relative privacy. Neither could hold back the tears while the hugged tightly, before turning around and facing their new reality.
A huge and excited crowd cheered loudly when Namibia’s newest hero stepped down on home soil.
Her mother by her side, Johanna ‘Nunu’ Benson made her way through a throng of people, surrounded by Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture Kazenambo Kazenambo and other dignitaries.
At times looking frail and overwhelmed by the unfamiliar rush of fans from, she did shyly smile in acknowledgement of her new status and the abundance of joy her achievements and return has unleashed.
“Your light shone so brightly that it lit up the whole of Namibia with joy. Tears of joy flowed unrestrained …”, Monica Nashandi, General Manager of Nampower, said at a press conference at the airport shortly after Johanna’s arrival.
As proud as a father, deputy sports minister Pohamba Shifeta, who accompanied the paralympic team to the London games, praised Team Namibia. “We have a very small quantity, but they are big in quality”, he boasted. He praised all five athletes who qualified for the games, and thanked the coaches and the rest of the Team Namibia unit for their tireless efforts and outstanding achievements.
“What Johanna has done, is an inspiration to all sports men and women in Namibia”.
For Kazenambo, Johanna’s achievements has enshrined her in the history annals of Namibia, and the golden girl has “baptised Namibia as a gold winning nation”.
He concluded that as a nation, Namibians “are grateful to her, we are grateful to her mother. Now we will be unstoppable”.
Today Johanna Benson will shake hands with the President of Namibia, and he will convey his pride and gratitude to the woman who has become Namibia’s most celebrated sports star in decades.
UPDATE: In an unmistakable gesture of pride and gratitude, Johanna’s meeting at the State House on Wednesday, 12 September, with President Hifikepunye Pohamba resulted in the young woman receiving a pledge of a new house of her choice in Walvis Bay and a diplomatic passport.
The happy athlete told reporters that she was always certain that her country would reward her well if she performed at a high standard.