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Johanna BensonÔÇöone of a kind

Mon, 16 June 2014 00:14
by Andreas Kathindi


How did you handle all the attention you got after winning at the Olympics? Did you like it or was it annoying?
Well I liked it at first. Seeing myself on TV and hearing people say my name was fascinating. But it eventually became annoying. The people becoming too many. I couldn’t walk in the street without random strangers stopping me to take a picture. But I just had to keep my head down and get on with it. I learned to control myself and just do it.
How did you cope with being an international athlete and having to go to school as well?
I don’t know if I balanced that very well. I got weak marks in Grade 10 and haven’t continued school since then. Now, I will continue doing courses until I can be employed and support myself.
So what do you do now when you are not running?
I spent most of my days at the Sunshine Child and Family centre just enjoying myself with my peers and sharing some of my training programs with the children. This place is where I loved to spend most of my time.

Did a lot of new family members start to show up after that?
Well, not really. Here and there but it was mostly new friends that began to pop up.
How did you handle that situation?
I’m not the type of person that would go chasing people away so I just accepted them. I like to make friends anyway, even when I travel abroad so I just continued being myself.
What lessons did you take out of becoming celebrity at a young age?
I’m still the same person I was before that. I have accepted that more people know who I am now, but to be honest I am still learning.
What’s the most precious thing you bought with your prize money?
It has to be the household stuff I bought for the house, especially for the dining room and living room. These are the places where I spend most with my family so they mean a lot to me.
There was a rumour that you bought TV sets for every room in your house, was that true?
No, not for every room. I bought TV sets for my room and my mother’s room and that’s it. [laughs]
Is your uncle Jeffrey Noabeb still managing your finances?
No. Not anymore.
Why not?
I can’t really say because it’s difficult to get into. Let’s just say it is complicated.
Did everyone that promised to give you money after you won follow up with their promises, like Mr. Shaava and J. J. Doeseb from the NPL?
I don’t remember. Perhaps they did but I don’t remember right now.
Who’s your favourite local artist?
Gazza and Pule, who is my cousin.
How old where you when you had your first boyfriend?
It’s very complicated. There was a guy who said he liked me some time ago, but I was shy and told him I would give him an answer when I came back from the 2012 Paralympics. But when I came back he moved to Luderitz and I couldn’t find his number. Maybe one day I will meet him again.
What has been your most embarrassing moment in life so far?
I don’t know if this is embarrassing but the one I always remember is when I was running towards the class and someone bumped into me. I fell down and was bleeding and the children around were laughing.
How difficult was it living with a disability and having such huge ambitions as you had?
I was very difficult. People used to make fun of me at school and I would even stay away from school because of it. But the teachers would help me, and especially my mother and sister were always there for me. Eventually I taught myself to live with it.  I’ve learned to love myself for who I am.
Do you think there will be another Namibian to win a gold medal at an Olympics event again, or do you think you’ve reached as far as we can go?
No I definitely think we can do it, but only if they send a strong contingent to the next event. If they only send one or two then it will not happen, but people like Johannes Nambala. He got a gold medal at the last World Champions.
Do you think more paralympians should be allowed to compete in the Olympics?
Yes of course. Look at Oscar Pistorious. He was allowed to take part and even though he didn’t win, he still did very well. I want to be the first Namibian paralympian to take part in the Olympics.
Speaking of Oscar Pistorious, what do you make of his case? Do you think he did it?
I really don’t know. I know he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but I think it was an accident. He thought it was somebody else. That said however, I think he will be in jail for a long time. I think his career is effectively over. But I will always support him. I’ve met him a couple of times at tournaments and he sounded like a decent guy.
There’s this thing among the youth and it’s even become a social meme, young people partaking in unprotected sex, they call it 40, what do you say to that?
Well, they can enjoy themselves as much as they like but should always take care to use protection. That is very important.
What’s next for Johana Benson now?
I’m preparing myself for the upcoming Commonwealth games happening on 23 July. Watch out for me then!