Christine Mboma and teammate Beatrice Masilingi, sprinters from Namibia, reached one of the greatest highs of their young lives by reaching the 200-meter final in their first Olympic Games, with Mboma taking a silver medal.
Mboma trailed in fourth place in the final 80 meters but surged past Jamaican legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and U.S. Olympic Trials Champion Gabrielle Thomas for the silver medal, finishing the race in 21.81 seconds. Jamaica’s dominant superstar Elaine Thompson-Herah won the event in 21.53 seconds. Masilingi ended up sixth with a personal-best 22.80 seconds.
At age 18, Mboma becomes the first Namibian woman to win an Olympic medal. She’s also the first Namibian since legendary sprinter Frankie Fredericks, who won silver at 100 and 200 meters in 1996 to bring home an Olympic medal.
The triumph was born of disappointment one month ago. Mboma and Masalingi are more known for the 400 meters. Both had placed themselves in the top 3 in the world in the long-sprint race this season. Mboma shattered the world junior mark at 400 meters at a meet in Poland on June 30. Both runners will be considered threats for medals in the event in future Olympics.
The World Athletics regulations on testosterone levels for races from 400 meters to 1 mile in distance, the “Caster Semenya Rule”, disqualified them both. A blood serum test taken in June confirmed that both women had levels of endogenous testosterone above the World Athletics-mandated limit of 5 nanomoles of serum testosterone per liter.
The news unleashed of firestorm of criticism from Namibia and across the African continent due to accusations that the rule predominantly and unfairly targets African women. The rule itself was created due to the dominance of South Africa’s Olympic and World 800-meter champion Caster Semenya.
These two young Namibian athletes chose to not protest the decision, but instead focus on the 200 meters. That focus paid off for Mboma. She not only won the silver medal, but also set a new junior (under-20) world record for the event. She topped a mark set by decorated American Olympic champion Allyson Felix 19 days before Mboma was born in 2003.