By ManoReporters Writer
Namibian athlete Christine Mboma has emerged as winner of the 2021 BBC African Sports Personality of the Year (ASPOTY).
An Olympic 200m silver medallist, Mboma was selected from a shortlist of six eminent sports personalities, including Kenyan athletes Eliud Kipchoge and Faith Kipyegon and South African Para athletics Ntando Mahlangu.
Also on the list was Senegalese football star Édouard Mendy of Chelsea and South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker.
ASPOTY, one of the BBC World Service’s sports awards, honours the achievements of talented sportswomen and men across the continent.
The award for Africans have been hosted since 1992, first under the name African Sports Star of the Year. It would be changed to the African Footballer of the Year in 2001, from which period it was open to only footballers. In 2019 it again changed to its current name. The BBC said this was meant to match the awards intended purpose and to reflect the diversity of sports including gender and all other sports disciplines on continent.
Mboma becomes the first female and youngest to win the award since it was launched. She is also the second Nambian, after Frankie Fredericks in 1993, to win a BBC sporting award.
Other previous winners of the BBC African sports award are Ghanaian football legend Abedi Pele, who won the maiden BBC African Sports Star of the Year award.
Other previous winners include Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez, Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Okocha, Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, and Liberia’s George Weah.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the award wasn’t held in 2020.
The 2021 contest was launched on December 8. A panel of experts – including administrators, journalists and coaches – determined the six contenders from whom the winner was decided by public voting.
The final result was announced on the 7th January edition of the BBC Focus on Africa programmes on both TV and radio.
Mboma, 18, welcomed the news and dedicated her victory to all Namibians.
“I feel great and am really proud to be a Namibian and I thank all the Namibians who voted for me. I did not expect to win,” she said, adding: “The award is a reward for all the hard work and all the achievements that I have done.”
She added that she didn’t expect 2021 to end up for her in such a happy note, given all what she had gone through.
Mboma is the first Namibian woman to ever stand on an Olympic podium after winning silver in the 200m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games – finishing behind five-time Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica.
Orphaned at age 13, life became hard for her but it didn’t stop her reaching the top. In September 2021, she became the 200m Diamond League champion with a time of 21.78s which set both another under-20 world record and a new African record.
Mboma’s coach Henk Botha described her triumph as “unbelievable,” given the caliber of contenders she faced.
“Awards like these means a lot to all athletes. It was a very strong field, all the contestants are superstars of African sport so for me as a coach of the athlete, it is a great privilege and honour to be part of any award from the BBC,” Mr Botha told the BBC.
Ben Sutherland, Editor of BBC Sport Africa said:
“Christine Mboma might “only” have got a silver at Tokyo 2020, but it is her story that clearly resonated with the World Service audience who voted for this award.”
The Namibian teenager has had a tragic experience of poverty and life of orphan.
She came to the limelight in early 2021, contesting on the track for in the 400m. She was forced to withdraw on the eve of the Olympics due to her naturally-occurring high testosterone levels. To keep her Olympic dream alive, she switched to 200m – an event she had never competed, and which is seen as the most competitive field in any athletics discipline right, involving world stars like Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Dina Asher-Smith, Marie-Josee Ta Lou.
“To go into that event with no experience and get a silver at that age is a stunning achievement, and I think that’s what our audience recognised,” said
Liliane Landor, Senior Controller of BBC News International Services and Director of BBC World Service, said:
“Christine Mboma has shown incredible strength and determination in the face of adversity… This award builds upon BBC Africa’s efforts to promote sport and provide global visibility for African athletes across our platforms.”